Expect more valley rain, Sierra snow as blustery storms roll through state

10/22/2012 6:19 AM

10/22/2012 10:59 PM

The season's first storm blew into the Northern San Joaquin Valley and foothills Monday, bringing snow to the higher elevations and rain lower down. Wet and blustery conditions are expected to continue, on and off, through Wednesday.

To the north, in Sutter County, a tornado touched down, and funnel clouds were seen near Elk Grove.

The bulk of the storm hit to the north of Stanislaus County. "You kind of missed most of the action," said Jason Clapp, forecaster with the National Weather Service in Sacramento.

A tornado touched down near Yuba City about 3:15 p.m., ripping shingles off rooftops, scattering patio furniture and blowing down trees and power lines. No injuries were reported.

Clapp said the storm brought several thunderstorms north of Marysville. By late morning, nearly an inch of rain had fallen in Sacramento.

Still, the few hundredths of an inch of rainfall the Modesto Irrigation District reported was enough to slicken streets and drop wires. The Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts reported some scattered power failures caused by the weather.

One of the largest was near Lander and Linwood avenues in south Turlock, where up to 450 people lost power just before noon. It was repaired about an hour later, according to TID spokesman Herb Smart.

In the Merced area, PG&E blamed the weather for five power failures. About 10:30 a.m. Monday, 10,000 people were without power. One of the largest failures was caused by downed poles on North Highway 59 and Yosemite Avenue. Some power poles caught fire. By late afternoon, 2,245 customers in Merced still were without power, said Denny Boyles, a PG&E spokesman.

California Highway Patrol officers and local police responded to a handful of car accidents ranging from Merced to Modesto to Sonora. Most were classified noninjury. The Modesto Regional Fire Authority responded to a rollover accident on Orangeburg Avenue on Monday morning just after the rain started; nobody was injured.

At Yosemite National Park, officials said about a half-inch of rain fell in the valley, with snow as low as 6,000 feet. They expected more rain and snow over the next few days. Tioga Pass and Glacier Point Road were closed at 10 p.m. Sunday, and officials will assess conditions on both as the weather improves.

"It looks like Mother Nature threw us our first snowball," said Rochelle Jenkins of the California Department of Transportation, which was enforcing chain controls above 4,300 feet on Interstate 80.

Early Monday chain controls also were in effect on Highway 108 above Sonora and Highway 50 southwest of Lake Tahoe.

Law enforcement authorities were working to clear five jackknifed big rigs that forced the closing of Highway 20 east of Nevada City, where at least 6 inches of snow had accumulated by midmorning.

"This is a good storm, especially for being our first," Jenkins said.

More widespread precipitation is expected to move across Northern California today and Wednesday.

Clapp said there is a chance of showers in the Modesto area through midweek, when a new ridge will move in. This weekend, he said there's a slight chance of showers to the north, but "it should be clear in the Modesto area."

The Associated Press and Merced Sun-Star contributed to this report.

Bee breaking news editor Patty Guerra can be reached at pguerra@modbee.com or (209) 578-2343. Follow her on Twitter @pattyguerra.

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