California braces for historic rains, snowfall
SAN FRANCISCO, United States - California closed schools and roadways Thursday, December11, as it prepared for what forecasters predicted would be the state's biggest storm in years, bringing heavy rain and ferocious winds.
The storm, which began to batter northern California late Wednesday, was expected to last through Friday, causing severe flooding in coastal areas and mudslides in higher elevations.
The bad weather sweeping into the region was being carried on a current with the unlikely name "Pineapple Express" - an intense stream of moisture stretching from Hawaii to the US West Coast.
Schools were closed Thursday in San Francisco, Oakland and Marin County and elsewhere in northern California, while local media reported that San Francisco's scenic Great Highway, which runs along the Pacific Highway, also had been closed as a precaution.
The National Weather Service said a flash flood warning would remain in effect all day Thursday, and warned motorists that "driving conditions may be very poor" because of the storm.
Officials predicted winds that could top 75 miles (120 kilometers) per hour - equivalent to a Category One hurricane, with gusts of nearly 100 miles per hour.
Flash flood watches and warnings were put in place all along the western United States from the Pacific Northwest to San Diego at the Golden State's southernmost tip.
In the state's mountainous areas, blizzard conditions were expected, with snowfall totals of up to four feet (1.2 meters).
The heavy precipitation comes with California already saturated by several weeks of punishing rains.
Epic rainfall was also expected to be felt in Oregon and Washington states.
US weather experts said the last time the region was hit by such heavy rainfall was in October 2009. - Rappler.com