Storm brings little relief to drought stricken state

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — An unusually cold spring storm brought heavy rain and hail to parts of Northern California on Tuesday and coated the mountains in snow — a welcome respite that will do little to ease the historic drought, forecasters say.

Hail and wind swept through the San Francisco Bay Area, while the Sierra Nevada expected up to 2 feet of snow, which makes its way into rivers and streams and provides 30 percent of the state’s water.

“It’s a start, but it’s just not enough,” National Weather Service forecaster Diana Henderson said days after the governor declared the drought conditions at its worst point in decades.

Rainy weather slowed the Bay Area commute, caused some wrecks and led to wind advisories for four bridges, officials said.

In Daly City, south of San Francisco, at least one car was submerged in rainwater that was flooding Interstate 280 on-ramps. In Fremont, a tractor-trailer jack-knifed before sunrise, blocking northbound Interstate 680 for several hours.

But residents were glad to see the drops falling.

“We need it,” said Becky Hlebasko of Marin County. The drought has her wondering what to do with her lawn, but she says, “Everybody has to do their part.”

Cynthia Sandberg, farmer and owner of Love Apple Farms in the Santa Cruz Mountains, said she awoke with the sound of rain pounding on her roof.

“I thought it was some overhead jets — that’s how unusual it is for me to be awakened by that kind of rainfall,” she said.

But Sandberg said even hours of heavy rains “don’t saturate the soil as much as you would think.”

A band of moderate precipitation brought rain measuring about 0.50 to 0.80 of an inch over Lake County, west of Sacramento, with higher amounts along the coast, the weather service said. Rain will push through the Central Valley and into the northern Sierra.

The storm is expected to spread moderate rain down the Central Coast to the Los Angeles basin by Tuesday afternoon before dwindling early Wednesday.

In the Sierra Nevada, 6 to 12 inches of snow could fall around 4,000 feet, with 1 to 2 feet on higher peaks, forecasters say. The weather service issued a winter storm warning above 3,500 feet for heavy snow, which is in effect until 6 p.m. Tuesday. Drivers are urged to use caution on mountain roads.

The snowfall is a big change from last week, when Gov. Jerry Brown stood in dry, brown grass at a site normally covered in snow this time of year and announced he had ordered cities and towns to cut the state’s overall water usage by 25 percent compared with 2013 levels.

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