- Associated Press - Saturday, December 12, 2015

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - In an encouraging prelude to winter, California got a heavy dose of snow and rain that the drought-stricken state badly needed, and the wet weather may not be done yet.

While ski resorts rejoiced at the deep snows they were seeing, on the coast rain and wind gusts prompted high surf warnings and repeated cautions from highway patrol to slow down when driving Friday.

California needs all the snow and rain it can get, given years of drought that have dried up reservoirs and left trees parched. Even a wet winter is not expected to end the drought, but this week’s weather brought on by a tropical atmospheric river is the kind Californians used to see before drought set in.

“This is the kind of storm we’ve been missing for the last four years of drought,” said Doug Carlson, a spokesman with the California Department of Water Resources. “This is the kind of storm we would need a lot of to start digging our way out of the drought.”

Higher snow peaks in the Sierra Nevada didn’t hit 3 feet as projected, but there was still a foot or two of snow, enough to keep sledders, skiers and snowboards happy, National Weather Service meteorologist Dawn Johnson said Friday.

To the south in Ventura County, surging waves inundated several low-lying streets along the coast as a very large Pacific swell hit Friday. Rough seas surged over the Ventura Pier during high tide, and seawater streamed through residential neighborhoods.

Mike Laan took a break from his job with the city of Ventura’s tourism bureau to join hundreds of residents snapping photos of the huge waves.

“They’re bigger than I’ve ever seen,” Laan said. “When they’re breaking, the waves are higher than the pier. The water is going all the way past the sand to the streets.”

The pier was damaged by the battering surf and closed indefinitely. No serious damage was reported to homes, and the high tide receded by midmorning.

Another storm is expected this weekend, which could bring another 2 feet of snow to parts of the Sierra.

The Southern California coast remains under a high surf advisory through Sunday, with unpredictable waves topping 10 feet.

Forecasters have said a strong El Nino weather system could drench California and other parts of the West in the coming months. However, Johnny Burg, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle, said he didn’t believe the latest Northwest storms were related to El Nino.

“We just had a jet stream pointed at us, and it brought successive storms,” he said. “We don’t see the effects until the winter.”


Weber reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press writers Scott Smith in Fresno and Donna Blankinship and Lisa Baumann in Seattle contributed to this report.

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