SACRAMENTO, Calif. (NewsNation Now) — A powerful storm drenched wildfire-scarred northern California on Sunday, triggering mudslides and downing electric lines with winds blasting San Francisco as a “bomb cyclone” headed south.
Flooding was reported across the San Francisco Bay Area, closing streets in Berkeley, inundating Oakland’s Bay Bridge toll plaza and overflowing rivers in Napa and Sonoma counties.
Winds above 50 mph gusted through San Francisco and triggered power outages around Sacramento, where residents tweeted photographs of toppled utility poles smashing cars and blocking roadways.
The all-time one-day rainfall record for Sacramento, set in 1880, was broken Sunday after 5.44 inches of rain was recorded.
The National Weather Service’s Sacramento office warned of “potentially historic rain,” with Sacramento County possibly receiving as much as a third of the county’s normal annual rainfall inside a 24 hour period.
Up to 10 inches of rain was expected to wash over the West Coast, said meteorologist Marc Chenard of the Weather Prediction Center at the National Weather Service.
“It’s an atmospheric river already moving through northern California,” he added, describing the storm as a “bomb cyclone,” an intense weather event in which the barometric pressure drops quickly. The lower the pressure, the stronger the storm.
Sandbags were being handed out and evacuation centers were opened in Sacramento. The Sacramento Office of Emergency Service tweeted “Remember – never drive through standing water! Turn around, don’t drown!”
By Sunday morning, Mount Tamalpais just north of San Francisco had recorded a half-foot of rainfall during the previous 12 hours, the weather service said.
“Some of our higher elevation locations could see 6, 7, 8 inches of rain before we’re all said and done,” Weather Service meteorologist Sean Miller said.
About 150 miles to the north, the California Highway Patrol closed a stretch of State Route 70 in Butte and Plumas counties because of multiple landslides within the massive Caldor Fire burn scar.
“We have already had several collisions this morning for vehicles hydroplaning, numerous trees falling, and several roadways that are experiencing flooding,” tweeted the Highway Patrol’s office in Oroville. “If you can stay home and off the roads today, please do. If you are out on the roads, please use extreme caution.”
The same storm system also slammed Oregon and Washington state, causing power outages affecting tens of thousands of people. Two people were killed when a tree fell on a vehicle in the greater Seattle area. Eastside Fire & Rescue responded to the scene of the fatalaties near Preston, Washington, which is about 20 miles east of Seattle.
In nearby Colusa and Yolo counties, state highways 16 and 20 were closed for several miles due to mudslides, the state Department of Transportation said.
Burn areas remain a concern, as land devoid of vegetation can’t soak up heavy rainfall as quickly, increasing the likelihood of flash flooding.
“If you are in the vicinity of a recent burn scar and haven’t already, prepare now for likely debris flows,” the Sacramento weather service tweeted. “If you are told to evacuate by local officials, or you feel threatened, do not hesitate to do so. If it is too late to evacuate, get to higher ground.”
South of San Francisco, evacuation orders were in effect in the Santa Cruz Mountains over concerns that several inches of rain could trigger debris flows in the CZU Lightning Complex Fire burn scar. Further south, parts of western Santa Barbara County saw evacuation warnings upgraded to orders in the area burned by this month’s Alisal Fire.
Strong winds were also expected, with gusts of up to 60 mph at the windiest spots in Northern California. Elevations above 9,000 feet in the Sierra Nevada could get 18 inches of snow or more from Sunday through Monday morning.
The Associated Press, Reuters and NewsNation affiliate KTXL contributed to this report.