Record-breaking storm douses drought-stricken California

California_Storms_43459 Bruno and Julie stroll on a rainy day in Long Beach, Calif., Monday, Oct. 25, 2021.
California_Storms_83905 A man attempts to stay dry while riding along Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, Calif., during a rainstorm, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021.
California_Storms_04344 A car drives on Highway 101, which is partially flooded in Corte Madera, Calif., Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021.
APTOPIX_California_Storms_42018 A car crosses a flooded parking lot in Oroville, Calif., on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. A massive storm barreled toward Southern California on Monday after causing flooding across the northern half of the state.
California_Storms_56418 An abandoned car is stuck in the mud on Chualar River Road as rain falls over Salinas Valley, Calif., Monday, Oct. 25, 2021.
California_Storms_95322 In this image taken from video from a Caltrans remote video traffic camera, very light traffic is seen in the snow along Interstate 80 at Donner Summit, Calif., Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. Rainfall records were shattered and heavy snow pounded high elevations of the Sierra Nevada. Officials said mountain areas above 9,000 feet (2,745 meters) in the Sierra Nevada could get 18 inches (46 centimeters) of snow or more from Sunday until Monday morning.
California_Storms_94554 Anthony Flores, with the City of Clovis, works to clear a storm drain on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Clovis, Calif. A massive storm barreled toward Southern California on Monday after flooding highways, toppling trees, cutting power to about 380,000 utility customers and causing rock slides and mud flows in areas burned bare by wildfires across the northern half of the state.
California_Storms_32010 Commuters cautiously drive around a flooded section of Peach Avenue on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Clovis, Calif. A massive storm barreled toward Southern California on Monday after flooding highways, toppling trees, cutting power to about 380,000 utility customers and causing rock slides and mud flows in areas burned bare by wildfires across the northern half of the state.
California_Storms_26248 Garfield Elementary crossing guard Kai Dill tries to leap across the flooding street on Peach Ave., in Clovis, Calif., Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. A massive storm barreled toward Southern California on Monday after flooding highways, toppling trees, cutting power to about 380,000 utility customers and causing rock slides and mud flows in areas burned bare by wildfires across the northern half of the state.
California_Storms_04490 As the rain falls, a father walks his son to Garfield Elementary through a flooded section of Peach and Need Avenues, on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Clovis, Calif. A massive storm barreled toward Southern California on Monday after flooding highways, toppling trees, cutting power to about 380,000 utility customers and causing rock slides and mud flows in areas burned bare by wildfires across the northern half of the state.
California_Storms_93242 A downed tree is seen on Minnewawa Ave., during a storm, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Clovis, Calif. A massive storm barreled toward Southern California on Monday after flooding highways, toppling trees, cutting power to about 380,000 utility customers and causing rock slides and mud flows in areas burned bare by wildfires across the northern half of the state.
California_Storms_49161 A member of Hollister's Department of Public Works clears floodwaters on Hillcrest Road in Hollister, Calif., Monday, Oct. 25, 2021.
California_Storms_57715 A man walks his dog along Lighthouse Point as large waves brought in by a storm surge crash in Santa Cruz, Calif., Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021.
California_Storms_03657 Rain falls in Boulder Creek, Calif., Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021. A powerful storm roared ashore Sunday in Northern California, flooding highways, toppling trees and causing mud flows as forecasters predict record-breaking rainfall.
APTOPIX_California_Storms_34141 A pickup truck crosses a flooded parking lot in Oroville, Calif., on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. A massive storm barreled toward Southern California on Monday after causing flooding across the northern half of the state.
California_Storms_22368 Fog and rain make driving the Interstate 5 freeway in the San Fernando Valley treacherous, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. Heavy rain moving down from Northern California is expected to hit the Los Angeles area today.
California_Storms_81338 Members of Hollister's Department of Public Works clear flood waters on Hillcrest Road in Hollister, Calif., Monday, Oct. 25, 2021.
California_Storms_58572 Members of Hollister's Department of Public Works clear flood waters on Fairview Road in Hollister, Calif., Monday, Oct. 25, 2021.
California_Storms_22879 Water from heavy rains floods a farm near in Prunedale, Calif., Monday, Oct. 25, 2021.
California_Storms_20256 Houseboats float on Lake Oroville, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Oroville, Calif. Recent storms raised the reservoir more than 16 feet, according to the California Department of Water Resources.
California_Storms_15430 Clouds gather over Lake Oroville on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Oroville, Calif. Recent storms raised the reservoir more than 16 feet, according to the California Department of Water Resources.
California_Storms_11280 Houseboats float on Lake Oroville, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Oroville, Calif. Recent storms raised the reservoir more than 16 feet, according to the California Department of Water Resources.
California_Storms_23593 Houseboats float on Lake Oroville, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Oroville, Calif. Recent storms raised the reservoir more than 16 feet, according to the California Department of Water Resources.
California_Storms_71868 Alfred Giese, who drove in from sunny Indio, Calif. to attend the unveiling of the Anita Baldwin statue outside Le Méridien Hotel in Arcadia, stays dry under plastic during a rainstorm on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. His wife Barbara is a distant relative of Anita Baldwin's half sister Clara.
California_Storms_16820 A vehicle negotiates standing water along Riverside drive in Toluca Lake, Calif., Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. Heavy rain moving down from Northern California is expected to hit the Los Angeles area today.
APTOPIX_California_Storms_49026 Rocks and vegetation cover Highway 70 following a landslide in the Dixie Fire zone on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Plumas County, Calif. Heavy rains blanketing Northern California created slide and flood hazards in land scorched during last summer's wildfires.
California_Storms_36361 Caltrans maintenance supervisor Matt Martin surveys a landslide covering Highway 70 in the Dixie Fire zone on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Plumas County, Calif. Heavy rains blanketing Northern California created slide and flood hazards in land scorched during last summer's wildfires.
California_Storms_79149 Caltrans maintenance supervisor Matt Martin walks by a landslide covering Highway 70 in the Dixie Fire zone on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Plumas County, Calif. Heavy rains blanketing Northern California created slide and flood hazards in land scorched during last summer's wildfires.
California_Storms_97403 Rocks and vegetation cover Highway 70 following a landslide in the Dixie Fire zone on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Plumas County, Calif. Heavy rains blanketing Northern California created slide and flood hazards in land scorched during last summer's wildfires.
Rocks and vegetation cover Highway 70 following a landslide in the Dixie Fire zone on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Plumas County, Calif. Heavy rains blanketing Northern California created slide and flood hazards in land scorched during last summer's wildfires.
Rocks and vegetation cover Highway 70 following a landslide in the Dixie Fire zone on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Plumas County, Calif. Heavy rains blanketing Northern California created slide and flood hazards in land scorched during last summer's wildfires.
California_Storms_05625 Rocks and vegetation cover Highway 70 following a landslide in the Dixie Fire zone on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Plumas County, Calif. Heavy rains blanketing Northern California created slide and flood hazards in land scorched during last summer's wildfires. AP Photo/Noah Berger)
California_Storms_47645 A flooded sign remains after water had receded on C Street in San Rafael, Calif., on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021.
California_Storms_10498 Matthew Landry wrings out a mop as he dries out his garage on C Street in San Rafael, Calif., on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. Landry says shoes were floating in his garage when his street flooded during Saturday's storm.
California_Storms_14984 Robert Schmidt cleans up after Saturday's storm in front of his home on C Street in San Rafael, Calif., on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. During the storm, the street was under water, with several inches of water entering Schmidt's garage.
California_Storms_71975 Workers push water off a tarp covering the field from rain at Levi's Stadium before an NFL football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Indianapolis Colts in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021. A powerful storm roared ashore Sunday in Northern California, flooding highways, toppling trees and causing mud flows as forecasters predict record-breaking rainfall.
California_Storms_94309 Workers clear branches on Mirabel Avenue during a storm in Forestville, Calif., on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021.
California_Storms_66562 A truck passes through floodwaters in Forestville, Calif., on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021.
California_Storms_88057 From right, Nathan Murray and Ruby Murray, 6, evacuate due to floodwater on Neotomas Avenue in Santa Rosa, Calif., on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021.
California_Storms_72304 A Santa Rosa firefighter convinces a resident to evacuate after being trapped by floodwaters on Neotomas Ave., in Santa Rosa, Calif., on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021.
California_Storms_70460 Santa Rosa firefighters check for residents trapped by floodwaters on Neotomas Avenue in Santa Rosa, Calif., on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021.
California_Storms_71419 Santa Rosa firefighters check for residents trapped by floodwaters on Neotomas Avenue in Santa Rosa, Calif., on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021.
California_Storms_34415 People watch a storm surge approach Lighthouse Point in Santa Cruz, Calif., Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021.
California_Storms_71333 Floodwaters from Lake Madrone flow past a house on Oro Quincy Highway on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Butte County, Calif. The area burned in 2020's North Complex Fire.
California_Storms_06077 A motorist surveys floodwaters from Lake Madrone crossing Oro Quincy Highway on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Butte County, Calif. The area burned in 2020's North Complex Fire.
California_Storms_69797 A person bikes through floodwaters in Mill Valley, Calif., on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021.
California_Storms_17545 A child runs through floodwaters on Robin Road in Mill Valley, Calif., on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021.
California_Storms_76194 Crews work to upright an overturned semi-tractor-trailer truck on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge in Richmond, Calif., on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021. An atmospheric river storm, the strongest to hit the Bay Area in two years, moved through the Bay Area on Sunday.
California_Storms_36606 Crews work to upright an overturned semi-tractor-trailer truck on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge in Richmond, Calif., on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021. An atmospheric river storm, the strongest to hit the Bay Area in two years, moved through the Bay Area on Sunday.
APTOPIX_California_Storms_95893 Children play in floodwaters on Robin Road in Mill Valley, Calif., on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021.
California_Storms_22322 Allison Chan and son Ian Dimaano stroll past a puddle as rain falls in Alameda, Calif., on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021. An atmospheric river storm, the strongest to hit the Bay Area in two years moved through the Bay Area on Sunday.
California_Storms_09670 A Pleasant Hill Police officer attempts to pull a downed tree out of the way after it fell blocking Boyd Road in Pleasant Hill, Calif., on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021. A powerful storm barreled toward Southern California after flooding highways, toppling trees and causing mud flows in areas burned bare by recent fires across the northern part of the state.
California_Storms_61015 In this photo provided by Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, snow falls on Mammoth Mountain, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Mammoth Lakes, Calif.
California_Storms_09348 A vehicle slams into a flooded offramp at Gregory Lane on southbound I-680 in Pleasant Hill, Calif., on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021. A powerful storm barreled toward Southern California after flooding highways, toppling trees and causing mud flows in areas burned bare by recent fires across the northern part of the state.
California_Storms_81091 In this photo provided by Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, snow falls on Mammoth Mountain, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Mammoth Lakes, Calif.
California_Storms_25997 In this photo provided by Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, falling snow collects on cars in a parking lot at Mammoth Mountain, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Mammoth Lakes, Calif.
California_Storms_87842 In this photo provided by Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, snow falls on Mammoth Mountain, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Mammoth Lakes, Calif.
California_Storms_16256 In this photo provided by Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, snow falls on Mammoth Mountain, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Mammoth Lakes, Calif.
California_Storms_10724 In this photo provided by Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, snow falls on Mammoth Mountain, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Mammoth Lakes, Calif.
California_Storms_10402 A wind surfer surfs in the rain in Long Beach, Calif., on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021.
California_Storms_63586 A wind surfer surfs in the rain in Long Beach, Calif., on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021.
California_Storms_33341 Wet weather is no barrier for joggers along the bike path in Long Beach, Calif., on Monday, Oct 25, 2021.
California_Storms_53892 Rain continues to fall in Long Beach, Calif., Monday, Oct. 25, 2021.
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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Across Northern California, crews worked Monday to clear streets of toppled trees and branches and to clean gutters clogged by debris carried by rainwater from a massive storm that caused flooding and rock slides, and knocked out power to hundreds of thousands.

Despite the problems, the rain and mountain snow were welcome in Northern California, which is so dry that nearly all of it is classified as either experiencing extreme or exceptional drought. The wet weather also greatly reduces the chances of additional wildfires in a region that has borne the brunt of another devastating year of blazes in the state.

When the storm arrived during the weekend, people joyfully dusted off rain boots and jackets and children stomped in puddles. Social media filled with pictures that showed windshields splattered with droplets of water and single-word posts: RAIN!!!

Earl Casaclang of San Francisco kept waiting for a break in the rain Sunday to go out and smoke a cigarette.

“It was crazy! I kept thinking it was going to stop, but it just kept going and going,” Casaclang said Monday as he headed to his job as a security guard in the Financial District. “We need it to keep raining, but hopefully not that hard.”

The National Weather Service called preliminary rainfall totals “staggering,” including 11 inches (28 centimeters) at the base of Marin County’s Mount Tamalpais and 4 inches (10 centimeters) in downtown San Francisco, the fourth-wettest day ever for the city.

“It’s been a memorable past 24 hours for the Bay Area as the long talked-about atmospheric river rolled through the region,” the local weather office said. “We literally have gone from fire/drought conditions to flooding in one storm cycle.”

Northeast of the San Francisco Bay Area, 5.44 inches (13.82 centimeters) fell on downtown Sacramento, shattering the one-day record for rainfall that had stood since 1880.

The storm was accompanied by strong winds that knocked down trees and even toppled two big rigs on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Pacific Gas & Electric reported Sunday evening that 380,000 homes and businesses lost power, though most had it back Monday.

Water rose so quickly that two people and a dog needed rescuing from rising creeks in separate incidents early Monday in San Jose. San Jose Fire crews located one person clinging to a tree in the Guadalupe River at 3:30 a.m., but were unable to locate a second person. An hour later, crews rescued an individual and their dog stranded on an island in the middle of Coyote Creek.

As the storm headed south, precipitation levels fell, though a flood warning still was issued Monday afternoon for Los Angeles County.

Interstate 80, the major highway through the Sierra Nevada Mountains to Reno, Nevada, was shut down by heavy snow early Monday. In California’s Colusa and Yolo counties, state highways 16 and 20 were shut for several miles because of mudslides, the state Department of Transportation said.

The same storm system also slammed Oregon and Washington state, causing power outages that affected tens of thousands of people. Two people were killed when a tree fell on a vehicle in the greater Seattle area.

Lake Oroville, a major Northern California reservoir, saw its water levels rise 20 feet (6.10 meters) over the past week, according to the state’s Department of Water Resource. Most of the increase came between Saturday and Monday, during the height of the storm, KHSL-TV reported.

Justin Mankin, a geography professor at Dartmouth College and co-lead of the Drought Task Force at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the cycle of going from years-long drought to record-breaking downpours is something expected to continue due to climate change.

“While this rain is welcome, it comes with these hazards and it won’t necessarily end the drought,” Mankin said. “California still needs more precipitation, and it really needs it in high elevations and spread out over a longer time so it’s not hazardous.”

Christy Brigham, chief of resource management and science at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, said the rain was a huge relief after the Caldor Fire torched an unknown number of the giant trees in the park, along with thousands of pines and cedars.

“This amount of rainfall is what we call a season-ending event,” Brigham said. “It should end fire season and it should end our need — to a large degree — to fight this fire.”

The Caldor Fire has burned for more than two months and in early September it prompted the unprecedented evacuation of the entire city of South Lake Tahoe. Firefighters now consider it fully contained, a status that — thanks to the rain — also now applies to the Dixie Fire, the second-largest in state history at just under 1 million acres.

During the weekend, the California Highway Patrol closed a stretch of State Route 70 in Butte and Plumas counties because of multiple landslides within the massive Dixie Fire burn scar.

Cal Fire, the state firefighting agency, wasn’t ready to declare the wildfire season over or to cut staffing to winter levels. “We’d like to see some more rain coming our way before we look at reducing staffing,” spokesman Isaac Sanchez said.

Mankin said the long-term forecast for California shows drier-than-normal conditions.

“To end different aspects of the drought, you are going to need a situation where parts of California get precipitation over the next three months that’s about 200% of normal,” he said, adding that “despite this really, really insane rainfall, the winter is probably going to be drier than average.”

___

Associated Press writers Janie Har in San Francisco, Christopher Weber and John Antczak in Los Angeles and Brian Melley in Three Rivers contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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