Blizzards, hurricane force winds pound California

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 8:37 PM GMT on January 04, 2008

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A mighty hurricane-force Pacific storm continues to clobber California with blizzards, damaging winds, and flooding rains. Hardest hit are the Sierra Mountains, where winds at Ward Mountain near Lake Tahoe were 86 mph, gusting to 163 mph, at 11 am PST. The storm responsible is visible just off the coast of Washington (Figure 1), and has a central pressure near 960 mb--similar to that of a Category 2 hurricane. Blizzard conditions will continue over much of the Sierras, with 2-5 feet likely to fall by Saturday. Travel will be difficult of impossible in the northern mountains of California Friday and Saturday. Snow amounts may reach 10 feet by Monday in some mountain regions of California.


Figure 1. Visible satellite image of the California blizzard of 2008.

The storm pounded the San Francisco Bay area this morning with remarkable ferocity, bringing winds of tropical storm force to the entire region, accompanied by extremely heavy rain. Sustained winds of 53 mph gusting to 67 mph were measured at the San Francisco airport, forcing cancellation of 35 flights. High winds on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge forced closure of the bridge during the morning commute, when trucks toppled over on both upper and lower spans. Winds gusting to 70 mph were recorded on the Golden Gate bridge. At Mt. Diablo State Park just east of Oakland, sustained winds of 62 mph were reported at 9 am PST. A wind gust of 105 mph was reported at Los Gatos south of San Jose at 12pm PST. Ten inches of rain in 24 hours fell 13 miles southeast of Los Gatos.

In Southern California, the concern is heavy rain and flooding. Rainfall rates of up to an inch per hour are expected in the mountains, with total rain amounts of up to 10 inches expected in the south facing mountains. Landslides and debris flows are likely on the hillsides burned by the recent fires. Strong, damaging winds are expected over much of Southern California, as well. High winds over the the ocean will bring swells of 6-10 feet to the coast and 20 foot seas offshore, and isolated thunderstorms could spawn waterspouts. The storm responsible for the wild weather will weaken and move ashore on Saturday over British Columbia, but will still be strong enough to bring additional heavy rains, high winds, and mountain snows to California through Sunday.

Jeff Masters

Tahoe blizzard 2008 (pmik)
waiting on what is supposed to be a blizzard
Tahoe blizzard 2008
Northern Calif. Storm (sdminer)
A fence that borders the Muni tracks on King Street was downed by heavy winds during the storm that hit Northern California Friday. Taking up a nearly a full lane, traffic was backed up for blocks coming off the 280 and Fourth Street. Photo: Stephen Dorian Miner
Northern Calif. Storm

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152. SBKaren
8:29 PM PST on January 04, 2008
Wow Inyo - stay safe. You are the folks that people need to worry about. I think we'll be fine down here....some wind, some rain, but overall, OK.
Member Since: February 21, 2005 Posts: 195 Comments: 14535
151. Inyo
4:21 AM GMT on January 05, 2008
I live in Ventura and work in the hills a few miles north of town. It started raining this morning at 8:30 and has only intensified (although right now we are in a lull.). Wind has been nothing like the bay area but rain is intense and very strongly orographic (mountain influenced). It is raining about twice as hard in the hills. The little creek on the ranch went from dry to a trickle in the first inch, then soon turned into a roaring torrent of mud by the second inch. It's rained another inch since then so I can't even imagine what it is like. We had 3.5 inches a few weeks ago, and never totally dried out from that. I'll bet they have 6 inches up there before it is done. The power just flickered a bit.

I think Hopper Creek may take out 126 tonight... I hope not, I want to use that highway tomorrow... however Hopper Creek is a very steep canyon leading up to a 4000 foot mountain.. the entire watershed burned this fall... they have had at least 3 inches in the last few hours.
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150. Weather456
11:42 PM AST on January 04, 2008
Tropical Cyclone Helen (05U) Update

Tropical Cyclone Helen remains inland over Northern Australia near 13.79S-132.57E. Movement seems east southeastward. Position and movement based on surface observations, high resolution visible satellite imagery and the biggest help of all - Morphed Integrated Microwave Imagery at CIMSS (MIMIC). Surface winds are measured at 10-15 knots at the surface and the cyclone has been estimated to have filled from 985 mb in the last update to 993 mb based on reports from station 94131 . The tropical cyclone continues to lose it signature as it remains over land. Heavy banding remains to the east of cyclone from the Gulf of Capentaria to Arafura Sea. Wind shear is favorable in the 5-10 knot range over the initial disturbance with two outflow jets/channels to the north and south. The forecast still calls for the cyclone to continue towards the west and enter the Gulf of Carpentaria where conditions remain favorable for reintensification.

by W456



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149. anvilhead
7:50 PM PST on January 04, 2008
2.31
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148. SBKaren
7:47 PM PST on January 04, 2008
It is cool. We've now had just over half an inch of rain!
Member Since: February 21, 2005 Posts: 195 Comments: 14535
147. anvilhead
7:38 PM PST on January 04, 2008
ur welcome and i love this one its awesome
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146. SBKaren
7:34 PM PST on January 04, 2008
Thanks Anvil - done! They had it deeply embedded in the history of the weather station...who would of known!

I put it in my blog- took out the other one.
Member Since: February 21, 2005 Posts: 195 Comments: 14535
145. anvilhead
7:31 PM PST on January 04, 2008
Link
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144. SBKaren
7:25 PM PST on January 04, 2008
I can't find a weather sticker that shows rainfall...can you send me a link?
Member Since: February 21, 2005 Posts: 195 Comments: 14535
143. anvilhead
7:25 PM PST on January 04, 2008
its calmin down
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142. SBKaren
7:24 PM PST on January 04, 2008
Wow 2.06...it must be pouring there!
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141. anvilhead
7:14 PM PST on January 04, 2008
me too, its just got to 2 inches right....now
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140. SBKaren
7:12 PM PST on January 04, 2008
Geez Anvil, I've seen your rainfall amounts change in just a few minutes!
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139. anvilhead
7:07 PM PST on January 04, 2008
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138. SBKaren
7:06 PM PST on January 04, 2008
I think it's raining pretty heavily where my daughter lives too. I sure home she's home from work and not out in it!
Member Since: February 21, 2005 Posts: 195 Comments: 14535
137. SBKaren
7:05 PM PST on January 04, 2008
I bet Levi...interestingly enough I went to Mammoth Lakes and it said 'calm' but in Bishop, which is a lower elevation had pretty brisk winds.
Member Since: February 21, 2005 Posts: 195 Comments: 14535
136. anvilhead
7:05 PM PST on January 04, 2008
wow look at the radar estimates
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135. SBKaren
7:04 PM PST on January 04, 2008
Wow Anvil you are still in that yellow band!

Member Since: February 21, 2005 Posts: 195 Comments: 14535
134. Levi32
6:03 PM AKST on January 04, 2008
Unfortunately you have to have a station actually on Mount Whitney to get those types of observations higher in the atmosphere. They really should put one up there as I'm sure the winds are wicked.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26566
133. SBKaren
7:03 PM PST on January 04, 2008
We still only have sprinkles! But the wind is picking up and it 'sounds' worse than it is.
Member Since: February 21, 2005 Posts: 195 Comments: 14535
132. SBKaren
7:02 PM PST on January 04, 2008
Hi mark - welcome.

I have family in Carson City..how did they fair? Get snow?
Member Since: February 21, 2005 Posts: 195 Comments: 14535
131. mark64506
7:00 PM PST on January 04, 2008
Hello all....First timer here.

So far over 7 inches of snow. Located near the California Nevada border near Reno. What a sharp storm. Interesting to watch the low drag all that moisture straight to the coast! This is going to be historic for the Sierra/Tahoe area.
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130. anvilhead
7:01 PM PST on January 04, 2008
bout 2 and a half hours ago it just keeps pooring
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129. SBKaren
7:00 PM PST on January 04, 2008
Wow Anvil - when did it start there? I've noticed the big yellow band over you for a long time!

We've had 0.01"!!
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128. anvilhead
6:56 PM PST on January 04, 2008
we already have had 2 inches of rain here in santa clarita :D
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127. SBKaren
6:56 PM PST on January 04, 2008
rmh - look for Lone Pine (at the base of Mt. Whitney) or Mammoth Lakes (a bit further north)
Member Since: February 21, 2005 Posts: 195 Comments: 14535
126. CrazyC83
2:48 AM GMT on January 05, 2008
In the last 42 hours since midnight Wednesday, of the 42 hourly observations, Ward Mountain has had:

sustained above 40 mph (gale force) - 37 of 42
sustained above 60 mph (storm force) - 25 of 42
sustained above 74 mph (hurricane force) - 9 of 42
sustained above 95 mph (Cat 2 force) - 3 of 42 (assuming 99 mph on the 6999 reading)

gusts above 74 mph (hurricane force) - 34 of 42
gusts above 95 mph (Cat 2 force) - 19 of 42
gusts above 110 mph (Cat 3 force) - 12 of 42 (incl. 11 straight hours!)
gusts above 130 mph (Cat 4 force) - 5 of 42 (incl. 4 straight hours!)
gusts above 155 mph (Cat 5 force) - 3 of 42
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125. rmh9903
2:52 AM GMT on January 05, 2008
I wish there was a weather station/ center like Mt Washington on top of Mt Whitney cause I am sure there would be some wicked numbers coming out of it.
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124. SBKaren
6:52 PM PST on January 04, 2008
Levi - that's why we've been on the edge of this storm so far....just on the lower edge.
Member Since: February 21, 2005 Posts: 195 Comments: 14535
123. SBKaren
6:51 PM PST on January 04, 2008
OK SouthBay, because we have an area here referred to as the south bay as well, and I know they didn't receive that kind of rain yet...maybe now, but not earlier today.

Skye - our waves are suppose to increase too. You can be sure I'll head down to the beach to get some pictures.
Member Since: February 21, 2005 Posts: 195 Comments: 14535
122. Levi32
5:50 PM AKST on January 04, 2008
"It's almost as if it is traveling east more than south."

That's because it is...lol. The front is moving SSE, but the air itself is actually moving east with the flow around the low.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26566
121. SouthBayDrK
6:47 PM PST on January 04, 2008
SBKaren, I'm in Sunnyvale near Fremont and Sunnyvale-Saratoga.
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120. Skyepony (Mod)
2:41 AM GMT on January 05, 2008
That's a huge area of 30' waves ...


click pic to go interactive
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 161 Comments: 37455
119. tmangray
2:40 AM GMT on January 05, 2008
The Pacific water vapor loop shows another interhemispheric flow just west of Hawaii. Moisture from the southern hemisphere (in summer season) is being pulled north into the transPacific polar jetstream. This air is high energy, high moisture and the jetstream is currently at very high velocity. Somewhere on the west coast, another battering in a few days.

Link
118. SBKaren
6:43 PM PST on January 04, 2008
It's almost as if it is traveling east more than south.

Member Since: February 21, 2005 Posts: 195 Comments: 14535
117. SBKaren
6:40 PM PST on January 04, 2008
Skye - I don't doubt that the northern part of California is dealing with a handful, as will the burn areas down here, but where I am I feel I'll be fine. Some minor flooding might occur, and some big swells are expected...I just updated my own personal blog.

SouthBay - where are you locate?
Member Since: February 21, 2005 Posts: 195 Comments: 14535
116. CrazyC83
2:33 AM GMT on January 05, 2008
That is a 949 mb pressure? That equates to a strong Category 3 hurricane...
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115. tmangray
2:31 AM GMT on January 05, 2008
Buoy 46059 located 357m west of San Francisco now reporting 37.7 foot seas. Strong sustained westerly fetch. These swells ought to reach the coast over the next 24 hours which when combined with the extra high tides at this time of year will likely cause coastal flooding.
114. LakeShadow
2:31 AM GMT on January 05, 2008
Jim Cantore's sitting at the weather desk in Atlanta...either he paid his dues, or he's a wuss. Stephanie Abrahms is out there in Reno reporting...
Member Since: August 10, 2007 Posts: 3 Comments: 2134
113. Skyepony (Mod)
2:23 AM GMT on January 05, 2008
The fire scorched area evactuations begin..
Orange County~ Residents in Williams, Harding, Modjeska and Silverado canyons were told to leave their homes by 7 p.m

Weather service issues flash flood warning for Malibu burn areas..urging people to leave now.

More than a million people from the Bay Area to the Central Valley were in the dark. Crews worked to restore power, but it could be days before all the lights are on, said Pacific Gas & Electric spokeswoman Darlene Chiu.


SBKaren~ Doesn't sound fun at all. CA seems great 99.9% of the time & down right crazy the rest.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 161 Comments: 37455
112. obsessedwweather
2:25 AM GMT on January 05, 2008
Hi. I know I just got here. But does anyone call this a Super Hurricane?????? This is major.
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111. SouthBayDrK
6:22 PM PST on January 04, 2008
Just a few pictures from my neighborhood this afternoon. Nothing major that I could see.

Small lake in front of my house due to a root under the gutter.
P1040006

I saw a lot of trash containers blown over by the high wind this morning.
P1040007

I bet this homeowner regrets having a palm tree.
P1040008

As of 6:20 PST, this PWS about 0.5 miles from my house had nearly 4.25" of rain. Wow.
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110. V26R
2:10 AM GMT on January 05, 2008
Floristan Web Cam looks Nasty
Looked Like PD and a Rescue Truck just drove
through escourted by a plow

Link
Member Since: July 20, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1762
109. SBKaren
6:00 PM PST on January 04, 2008
Skye - I heard that too! We've been on Hwy 50 coming down from Tahoe and had that highway closed behind us! We used to live up there and we would travel home on the weekend, taking Hwy 395. We've been in some white out conditions - NOT FUN! We were much younger then and so much more foolish!
Member Since: February 21, 2005 Posts: 195 Comments: 14535
108. Skyepony (Mod)
1:48 AM GMT on January 05, 2008
U.S. Interstate 80 over Donner Summit west of Reno has been closed periodically throughout the day because of jackknifed trucks, spinouts and blinding snow. Traffic on U.S. Highway 50 over Echo Summit also is backed up because of wrecks.



Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 161 Comments: 37455
107. SBKaren
5:32 PM PST on January 04, 2008
Looks like the town of Mojave is doing ok...but it's a big desert out there! Looks like Mammoth is really getting hit. I was looking at a cam from there earlier.

Member Since: February 21, 2005 Posts: 195 Comments: 14535
106. SBKaren
5:29 PM PST on January 04, 2008
I've driven over Hwy 80 a few times. I wouldn't want to be on that highway tonight...that's nuts! I wouldn't be surprised to find out if it closes soon.
Member Since: February 21, 2005 Posts: 195 Comments: 14535
105. Skyepony (Mod)
1:29 AM GMT on January 05, 2008
Alotta storm damage photos from Oregon just hit the WU photos page.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 161 Comments: 37455
104. LakeShadow
1:19 AM GMT on January 05, 2008
hey, I had to go make dinner and eat and clean it up and I come back...its sooo hard to catch up with everything thats going on.

Bone..Orca systems lives in BC in the maritimes...if he's not in Bermuda than he's in the middle of this storm...

Anyone hear anything from the Mojave desert? I'm very curious to see what sort of rain is falling there, whats the fallout?
Member Since: August 10, 2007 Posts: 3 Comments: 2134
103. ShenValleyFlyFish
7:48 PM EST on January 04, 2008
I 80
[IN THE SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA]
A HIGH WIND ADVISORY IS IN EFFECT AT THE SAN FRANCISCO-OAKLAND BAY BRIDGE
/IN SAN FRANCISCO/ (SAN FRANCISCO,ALAMEDA CO) - TRAVEL IS NOT RECOMMENDED
FOR CAMPERS, TRAILERS OR PERMIT LOADS

[IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA & THE SIERRA NEVADA]
IS CLOSED FROM APPLEGATE (PLACER CO) TO THE NEVADA STATE LINE - DUE TO
BLIZZARD CONDITIONS - MOTORISTS ARE ADVISED TO USE AN ALTERNATE ROUTE

SEMIS OVER 65 FEET OR WITH A KINGPIN TO REAR AXLE DISTANCE GREATER THAN
40 FEET ARE PROHIBITED FROM THROUGH TRAVEL ON US 50 & SR 70

CHAINS ARE REQUIRED ON ALL VEHICLES EXCEPT 4-WHEEL-DRIVE VEHICLES WITH SNOW
TIRES ON ALL 4 WHEELS FROM 3 MI EAST OF GOLD RUN (PLACER CO) TO THE
NEVADA STATE LINE

EASTBOUND TRUCKS ARE BEING SCREENED AT APPLEGATE (PLACER CO) - DRIVERS MUST
HAVE MAXIMUM CHAINS IN THEIR POSSESSION IN ORDER TO PROCEED - PERMIT LOADS ARE
PROHIBITED

WESTBOUND TRUCKS ARE BEING SCREENED 5 MI WEST OF RENO (WASHOE CO) - DRIVERS
MUST HAVE MAXIMUM CHAINS IN THEIR POSSESSION IN ORDER TO PROCEED - PERMIT LOADS
ARE PROHIBITED

EASTBOUND TRAFFIC IS REDUCED TO 1 LANE AT APPLEGATE (PLACER CO) - DUE
TO SNOW

A HIGH WIND ADVISORY IS IN EFFECT OVER THE YOLO CAUSEWAY & OVER THE BRYTE
BEND BRIDGE /WEST OF SACRAMENTO/ (YOLO CO) - TRAVEL IS NOT RECOMMENDED FOR
CAMPERS, TRAILERS OR PERMIT LOADS

Makes one grateful to be inside and warm and not on the road. Glad I'm not a trucker stuck out there.
Shen
Member Since: September 9, 2007 Posts: 36 Comments: 4687
102. SBKaren
5:14 PM PST on January 04, 2008
Bonedog - no the burn areas are much further south. They have made a mandatory evacuation call by 7PM for Modjeska Canyon...one of the burn areas.
Member Since: February 21, 2005 Posts: 195 Comments: 14535

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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