- The Washington Times - Friday, December 30, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Residents snapped up sandbags as the latest in a string of powerful storms began moving in yesterday, days after brutal downpours drove Northern California rivers to their highest levels in seven years.

The Pacific Ocean storm, paired with another forecast to hit tomorrow, could add as much as 6 inches of rain to the already waterlogged region, said Diana Henderson, a National Weather Service forecaster based in Monterey.

Residents throughout Sonoma County were picking up sandbags from emergency management officials. San Francisco officials were also offering sandbags, and work crews were clearing catch basins and storm drains on city streets.

People with hillside homes were urged to monitor weather reports, and a high surf advisory was posted along the coast, where waves could reach 20 feet.

The storms followed damaging deluges earlier this week.

In Modesto, a mudslide led to a pileup that killed a motorist Monday. And in Mendocino County, four homes were evacuated after a landslide Tuesday night.

The San Francisco Bay Area and counties farther north were likely to bear the brunt of the new storms, Miss Henderson said.

Light to moderate rain was reported early yesterday in parts of Sonoma and Napa counties north of San Francisco, the weather service said.

“It’s coming in slowly, but it will move in in buckets later on this afternoon,” Miss Henderson said.

Coastal areas such as Santa Cruz and Sonoma were especially at risk of mudslides and flooding, Miss Henderson said.

A flood watch was in effect for most of the Bay Area yesterday, with the National Weather Service warning that significant flooding was possible on Russian River at Guerneville in Sonoma County today.

From July 1 through Wednesday afternoon, San Francisco had received nearly 11 inches of rain, compared with 7.73 inches during the same period last year.

Soggy soil and forecasts of more heavy rain have increased fears that instability in already-drenched areas could trigger mudslides that could sweep away cars, buildings and other debris at speeds of up to 100 mph.

In January, 10 persons were killed in the Southern California community of La Conchita, when 1.7 million tons of mud slammed into their homes.

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