Written by The Business Journal Staff
(AP) — Rescue workers using boats Wednesday evacuated at least 30 Northern California farmland residents trapped in flooded homes and normally rainy Portland, Oregon was slammed with a rare foot of snow as a powerful storm system battered five western U.S. states.
In Nevada, at least 20,000 people near Lake Tahoe had no electricity as the storm fed by an “atmospheric river” weather phenomenon that sucked water from the Pacific Ocean downed trees and caused mudslides that damaged power lines.
The flooding in Northern California happened when water rushed into more than two dozen homes in San Benito County after a creek overflowed, KTVU (http://bit.ly/2j1qSit ) reported.
The television station’s reporting crew heard an elderly woman yelling from her window that she wanted to be rescued and that her husband had recent surgery and could not walk out of the house.
Forecasters said rain and snow would continue through Thursday, but the brunt of the system had passed after delivering the heaviest rain in a decade to parts Northern California and Nevada and surprising Portland with what forecasters said was its biggest snowfall since 2008.
Parts of California’s wine country were among the hardest hit, with up to 13 inches of rain over three days. The massive rain and snowfall that prompted a rare blizzard warning in parts of the Sierra is helping much of Northern California recover from a six-year drought.
A series of storms has added 33 billion gallons of water to Lake Tahoe since Jan. 1.
The snowstorm in Oregon, and southwest Washington state toppled trees, closed schools and cut off power to thousands. In central Washington state, the Grant County Sheriff’s Office warned motorists to stay off roads, saying snow drifts of 3 to 5 feet made them impassable.
The intensity of the snowstorm came as a surprise to meteorologists, most of whom expected no more than 4 inches.
“We are going to be analyzing this one, because this is a special one,” National Weather Service meteorologist Treena Jensen said.
While the heaviest downpours have moved through Northern California, and rivers are expected to recede throughout the day, the risk of flooding remains from runoff and bouts of showers.
In Southern California, officials warned residents of Los Angeles-area hillsides scarred by wildfires that mudslides were possible but only minor debris flows were initially reported.
Near Sacramento, a small tornado tore tree limbs and ripped awnings late Tuesday, National Weather Service meteorologist David Rowe said.
No injuries were reported from the twister, which was about 100 yards wide and registered on the low end of the tornado scale. But it “came as a little bit of a surprise considered that we’re so focused on all the heavy snow and rain,” Rowe said.
About 2,000 people in Wilton, a rural community near Sacramento, were asked to leave their homes Tuesday evening, as emergency crews worked to try to bolster a Cosumnes River levee.
Sacramento County spokeswoman Kim Nava said Wednesday the advisory has not been lifted. An evacuation center opened Tuesday evening in neighboring Elk Grove but some residents said they plan to stay put.
“We have no concerns,” Lill Nichols, who with her husband runs a horse farm near the river, told the Sacramento Bee newspaper. “We have animals and can’t evacuate anyway.”
Along Lake Tahoe’s western shore in Nevada, an avalanche near the Alpine Meadows ski resort sent snow hitting at least a dozen houses but officials said there was no major damage and no one was hurt.
Several ski resorts in parts of the Sierra Nevada planned to stay shuttered for a second day Wednesday, including Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, which had no power because to the storm.
The resort said on Facebook Wednesday that it had received more than 3 feet of snow in 24 hours.
In Colorado, several mountain passes are closed so crews can trigger slides Wednesday to make them safe as more snow falls in the mountains. The avalanche danger remained high.
Associated Press writers Ellen Knickmeyer, Olga R. Rodriguez, and Jocelyn Gecker in San Francisco, Christopher Weber in Los Angeles, Steven DuBois in Portland, Oregon, Colleen Slevin in Denver and Scott Sonner in Reno also contributed to this report.