Storms expected to dump at least an inch of rain on Sonoma County this week
North Coast residents can add the first substantial rainstorm of the season — due to arrive Tuesday and drop more than an inch of precipitation this week — to their list of holiday thanks.
But the oncoming wet weather prompted advance work Monday in Sonoma County to control erosion in the wake of the Kincade fire, while millions of people were expected to travel for Thanksgiving, contending with rain-soaked and snow- covered roadways.
Rainfall is expected to start late Tuesday morning, in the wake of widespread frost, with showers and possible thundershowers continuing Wednesday and a “slight chance” of rain and fog Thursday, said Anna Schneider, a National Weather Service meteorologist.
A second, milder system over the weekend could give Sonoma County a total of 1.5 inches of rain for the week, enough to relieve fire concerns that pervade the bone-dry Bay Area, the weather service said.
But it takes more than one damp week to banish fire season, Cal Fire spokesman Scott McLean said, noting that drying winds could come next week and vegetation is still dryer than last year at this time.
“One storm is not a cure-all,” he said. “If we get winter weather for the next two weeks our fire conditions should be diminished.”
Much of coastal northern and central California is experiencing its driest autumn on record, according to Daniel Swain’s California Weather Blog. The full three-month season, September through November, likely will not set a record thanks to the rain coming at the tail end of that period, he said.
PG&E warned customers that the storm coming Tuesday to Northern and Central California could cause “significant outages” due to strong winds, rain, thunderstorms and heavy mountain snow.”
Several feet of snow could fall at the highest elevations around Lake Tahoe, according to the National Weather Service. A winter storm warning is in effect for the Tahoe area from Tuesday night through Thanksgiving day.
PG&E, which delivers power to more than 5 million customers, said it was urging them to be prepared for storm-related blackouts and to “stay safe.”
PG&E meteorologists are tracking the weather in an effort to be ready to restore outages “as safely and quickly as possible,” the company’s press release said.
Sonoma County officials are scrambling to place straw wattles at about 60 sites where a home or other structure was destroyed by the Kincade fire in an effort to prevent ash and other debris from flowing off the site and potentially polluting a creek.
The need is “urgent but not critical” because the rain is unlikely to saturate the soil and cause surface water flow, said John Mack, natural resource manager for Permit Sonoma. “This first rain is just enough to wet everything down,” he said.
The fire destroyed 374 buildings, including 174 homes, and the 60 sites deemed most critical for erosion control were identified during hazardous waste inspections, Mack said.
Straw logs were also placed around two ponds, some trails and park boundaries at Foothill Regional Park in Windsor to stop sediment from flowing off hillsides.
Meanwhile, more than 55 million U.S. travelers are expected to hit the road, traveling more than 50 miles from home for the holiday, the second-largest mass movement since 2000, the AAA said.
Travel is expected to increase nearly 3 percent over last year, and Wednesday afternoon will be the peak of the holiday rush with trips taking as much as four times longer than usual in major urban areas, the forecast said.
In the San Francisco area, the worst time on the highways will be from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, with trips taking 3.2 times longer than usual, the AAA said.
On the bright side, California gasoline prices have fallen 8 cents a gallon in the past week, averaging $3.89 on Monday, according to GasBuddy’s daily survey. That’s nearly 23 cents per gallon lower than a month ago in the Golden State, yet nearly 28 cents higher than a year ago.
In Santa Rosa, the average price at the pump Monday was $3.85, compared with $4.12 a month ago and $3.70 a year ago.