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Storms drop torrential rain

Eileen JoyceMatt Bandy, from Paul Bunyan Enterprises, cuts branches from a tree that fell onto a home on Pleasant Street in Grass Valley at 2:45 a.m. Monday.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

The gusty, rainy El Nino-influenced storm that hit western Nevada County over the weekend dropped more than a foot of rain and hammered the area with hurricane-force winds.

And more wet weather is on the way.

At 6:30 p.m. Monday, 6,000 customers were without power in and around Grass Valley and Nevada City, and along Highway 20 west of Lake Wildwood, said Lisa Randle, Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. spokeswoman.



Crews are being brought in from Washington State and power will be restored sometime today, she said. The priority is to restore power to the largest block of customers and to the critical facilities, she said.

Four poles, nine transformers and 30 spans of wire need to be repaired, said Randle, who could not say how many western Nevada County customers lost power during the storm.




A foot of rain was reported at Nevada County Airport since Thursday, along with winds that gusted to 76 mph at 1:30 a.m. Monday morning – hurricane force.

The weekend weather was fueled by a convergence of a typhoon with a low-pressure system from the Gulf of Alaska.

“All of that converged over Northern California,” said Steve Martinez, meteorologist for Roseville-based Qwikcast.com. “We had a lot of winds and a lot of rainfall in a short time.”

The El Nino weather phenomenon was part of the blame for this storm.

Gulf of Alaska storms would normally hit Oregon and Washington, then move on to hammer Wyoming and Colorado.

But El Nino pushed the weather south from its normal track, sending it to Northern California.

“In a sense, El Nino has helped the storm because it shifted storm tracks to the south,” said Cindy Matthews, a National Weather Service forecaster.

El Nino occurs when sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean remain above average for several months. That triggers a chain reaction of weather and atmospheric changes, including a shift of the jet stream and storm track to the south.

Showery storms are expected to continue through the week with highs in the 40s, said George Cline, a National Weather Service meteorologist. But they weren’t expected to be as powerful as the weekend’s storm, with weaker winds and less rainfall.

The snow levels were expected to drop to as low as 3,000 feet overnight Monday. Sugar Bowl Ski Resort, at 6,800 feet, reported three feet of snow as of Monday morning, said Cline. Updated information was not available from the ski area’s web site.

Storms are supposed to clear out Wednesday, said Martinez, providing relatively clear weather for Nevada City’s Victorian Christmas. But he was watching another storm expected to hit Thursday.

That storm was expected to bring more rain and more winds, said Martinez. The prediction for Grass Valley’s Cornish Christmas is for isolated showers, he said.

The staff at the Nevada Irrigation Water District headquarters worked without power and closed shop early Monday. Operations Manager Terry Mayfield said an emergency generator provided power to the district’s operations department.

When he left work Monday, two water treatment plants outside Nevada City were still without power, Mayfield said. There is still plenty of water supply and service will not be discontinued.

“We’re in pretty fair shape,” he said.

By John Dickey and Kerana Todorov


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