Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 8:30 PM GMT on January 05, 2008
Heavy snow, flash floods, and damaging winds continue to pound California today as a weakening Pacific storm moves inland over British Columbia. The winds have died down considerably in the Sierra Mountains, where hurricane force winds were common on Friday. The storm's highest winds occurred at Ward Mountain near Lake Tahoe--sustained at 110 mph, gusting to 163 mph, on Friday. Prodigious snow amounts of up to six feet have fallen in the Sierras, with Blackcap Basin in Fresno County (elevation 10300 feet) reporting 71.3 inches (5.9 feet) of new snow as of 4 am PST Saturday. Continued heavy snows are expected in the Sierras through Sunday, with total amounts up to ten feet possible.
At lower elevations, heavy rain has triggered flash floods. In Chino Hills, just east of Los Angeles, a flash flood swept away a vehicle that had gone around a barricade. One occupant was found hypothermic and clinging to a tree, but the vehicle and its other occupant are missing. A mudslide forced the temporary closure of Interstate 15 nearby. Rain amounts exceeding ten inches (Figure 1) have fallen in the mountains of Central and Northern California, and in Nevada, heavy rains caused a levee to burst along the Truckee Canal in Fernley, flooding hundreds of homes.
Figure 1. Estimated rainfall from the blizzard of '08 in Central California as of 3 pm PST Saturday.
The storm pounded the San Francisco Bay area Friday 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.
The CIMSS satellite blog has a nice description of the unique meteorology of this storm.
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