By Associated Press - Thursday, December 15, 2016

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - One of the strongest rainstorms of the season hit the San Francisco Bay Area on Thursday, with a small town in the North Bay receiving nearly 7 inches of rain in 24 hours, meteorologists said.

More than 100 flights in and out of San Francisco International Airport were cancelled and about 360 were delayed for minutes to hours because of weather concerns, said Brian Horne, airport duty manager.

Venado, a remote former lumber town west of Healdsburg, was hit the hardest as the storm moved from the North Bay into San Francisco and the Central Coast.

Some creeks in those counties were over flood stages, and other areas were poised to get a good soaking later.

By nightfall, San Francisco had recorded more than an inch of rain in 24 hours, with areas further north seeing 2 to 4 inches and 5 to nearly 7 inches recorded in some areas of the Sierra Nevadas.

By evening the storm spread south and rain was falling on most of the Los Angeles area, which has seen barely a drop in recent weeks. The National Weather Service forecast anywhere from a half-inch to 3 inches of rain in Southern California through Friday morning.

Flash flood watches and warnings were issued for areas up and down the state, especially those where brushfires had denuded hillsides and mountain slopes.

That included areas along the Central Coast, where heavy rains were falling around Hearst Castle late in the evening.

A half-inch of rain per hour would be enough to send those hillsides tumbling and the storm was expected to dump that and more in some areas, forecasters said.

In Los Angeles, fire stations were handing out sandbags.

“We’re concerned about mudslides and flooding,” city fire spokeswoman Margaret Stewart said.

Get out quickly if “things go bad,” she urged residents of foothill and burned areas. “Don’t take the risk of being trapped in a mudslide.”

The storm wasn’t a surprise in the northern half of the state, which has been downright soggy this year. Forecasters say San Francisco’s 12 days of rain in October were the most in a single month in more than a century.

San Francisco received 2.43 inches of precipitation in October, which was more than double the total from a year earlier.

Drivers were urged to take it easy on slick roads.

California Highway Patrol Officer Andrew Barclay said drivers should avoid driving through standing water and losing control.

“My biggest suggestion right now is slow down and have patience,” Barclay said in Marin. “It’s going to take longer than normal to get home tonight, don’t rush.”

In Healdsburg, antique dealer Greg Sheldon said driving conditions were difficult there.

“Some of our streets are flooded here. I had two feet of water in one of my lanes,” said Sheldon, who works at Antique Harvest. “There’s just tons of water coming off, the ground is so saturated right now. Every field is a big lake.”

Chris Daniels, who also works in Healdsburg and lives nearby in Windsor, said she was worried about getting home Thursday night.

“I have a creek behind my house. It’s just about ready to go over our road,” she said. “I’m just hoping I can get back into my house”

In the Sierra Nevada, winds gusted to nearly 100 mph at times over ridgetops early Thursday, posing a risk of toppling trees weakened by drought. A winter storm warning remained in effect through 4 a.m. Friday around Lake Tahoe, where 1 to 3 feet of snow was expected at the upper elevations.

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