VIDEO: Wet winter weather slams the West from Oregon to New Mexico

Josue Ruiz, of Monterey, Calif., tries to stay warm and dry at the San Jose Diridon Transit Center in San Jose, Calif., on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017. Heavy rains are expected over the next few days. (Gary Reyes/San Jose Mercury News via AP)
Josue Ruiz, of Monterey, Calif., tries to stay warm and dry at the San Jose Diridon Transit Center in San Jose, Calif., on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017. Heavy rains are expected over the next few days. (Gary Reyes/San Jose Mercury News via AP)

 

 

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Wet winter weather slammed much of the West on Wednesday, with storms dropping 8 inches of snow on one Oregon city and as much as 5 feet of the white stuff predicted high in the Sierra Nevada.

The snow was expected to be a boon for the snowpack in California, which is flirting with a sixth straight year of drought.

Some highways flooded in the San Francisco Bay Area when more than an inch of rain fell overnight. Mud and rockslides were reported in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

The San Lorenzo River was swollen and the Big Sur River was also above flood stage, but there were no immediate reports of injuries or major property damage.

Flood warnings and watches were issued for 11 counties in the San Francisco Bay Area, and forecasters said heavy rains would last through Thursday.

In Oregon, a major winter storm slammed Medford with its snowiest day in nearly a century.

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More than 8 inches fell at the airport Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service. Eleven inches of snow fell on a December day in 1919.

Snow was also falling in Wyoming, where a winter storm warning has been posted for much of the Interstate 80 corridor, including Cheyenne. Heavy snow was also expected in Colorado.

In New Mexico, forecasters said a blustery winter storm will produce significant snowfall and strong winds across much of the northern and eastern parts of the state beginning late Wednesday and peaking early Friday.

The storm in California should boost the snowpack that provides about a third of California’s water in normal years for drinking, farming, and wildlife when it melts in warm, dry months.

The first manual survey of the snowpack this year revealed Tuesday that it holds about half as much water as normal, casting a shadow on the state that’s hoping for an end to the drought.

Surveyors took the reading at 6,000 feet near Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada, where storms were expected to dump four to five feet of snow.

The Sierra Avalanche Center issued an avalanche warning for the mountains around Lake Tahoe after a storm dumped nearly 2 feet of snow on area ski resorts.

Meanwhile, Yosemite National Park says it is expecting flooding.

Yosemite, of course, is a year-round destination and officials say it is possible the park may have to close within the next couple of days.

They are expecting some significant rain and the Merced River could flood in the valley.

Thus, people who are planning to visit Yosemite this weekend are being told to have a backup set of plans.

The last major flood in Yosemite was 1997.

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