Storm preps begin in earnest as Californians scramble to prepare for flooding rain

California races to prepare for an atmospheric river poised to drop inches of rain in an area that hasn’t seen measurable rain for almost seven months.

SANTA ROSA, Calif. – Drought, fires, even fallen leaves have left much of the Golden State vulnerable to storm damage.  Now, a series of storms are heading their way over the next several days, poised to drop several inches of rain. Already, residents and business owners are filling sandbags to guard against rising rivers and runoff.  Sandbag stations are popping up across the North San Francisco Bay Area on a first-come, first-served basis.  

Local department of transportation crews rush to clean fallen leaves, twigs, and trash out of storm drains to avoid ponding on freeways and overpasses.  Crews are also on call for fallen trees and limbs as the rain on a full canopy of leaves adds a tremendous weight burden on the tree and can pull down limbs especially when water loosens the soil around the roots. 

The California Department of Transportation is also racing to fix fire damage in burn areas along highways.  They clear gullies that will direct water and debris flows around and under roadways and clear dead and burnt trees that could fall across roadways.  Of Highway 50 in the Sacramento Valley and Lake Tahoe Basin, Steve Nelson, spokesperson for CalTrans says, "We already had contractors in the area doing emergency repairs after the fire.  Now we are in Storm Watch which means we are staffed 24/7 and staffing in 12-hour shifts." Stretches of CA-50 through the area were already down to one-way traffic control through the end of the month for road maintenance after the Caldor Fire damaged overpasses, burned retaining walls holding back hillside, and destroyed medians.

The Dixie, Caldor, Tamarack and numerous other fires statewide fire scorched trees holding soil.  Fire crews also plowed fire breaks into wild lands to arrest flame progress – clearing all woody matter that can burn and left what looks like a road for miles.  All these areas can funnel water and landslides into rivers that would create greater flooding or block roadways.

 "We are standing by to clear rock falls and slides or blowers and graters when we get snow," says Nelson.

Flood watches are already in place across Northern California mountains as communities brace for flash flooding and debris flows in burn scar areas.

Get ready for up to 1-2" of rain in San Francisco and 2-3" in Tahoe.  Northern California just logged inches with the midweek storm.  Look for Friday rain then Sunday and Monday the heaviest rain moves in. 

This is a good time to make sure your windshield wipers are in good shape after almost no use in the past 7 months.  Give yourself plenty of travel time.  If you are heading into the mountains check for chain requirements before you go.