SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — A strong late-season Pacific storm brought damaging winds and more rain and snow to saturated California on Tuesday as the first full day of spring showed little change from the state’s extraordinary winter.
The storm focused most of its energy on central and southern parts of the state, bringing threats of heavy runoff and mountain snowfall that forecasters said will be measured in feet. In the north, intense hail was reported in Sacramento, the state capital.
Trees and power lines were reported downed in the San Francisco Bay Area. An Amtrak commuter train carrying 55 passengers struck a downed tree and derailed near the East Bay village of Porta Costa. The train remained upright and nobody was injured, Amtrak and fire officials said.
In the Bay Area community of Portola Valley, a man driving a sewer truck was killed when a tree fell onto the vehicle, the California Highway Patrol said.
In the Monterey Bay region, a severe windstorm located over the ocean blasted Santa Cruz County with wind gusts up to 80 mph at midday. Along the coastline of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, ocean foam blew across the roadways like large snowflakes.
Wind gusts reached 76 mph in Santa Cruz mountain communities, including Boulder Creek.
Resident Frank Kuhr waited for hours Tuesday afternoon at a downtown supermarket for crews to remove large redwoods that were blocking a highway. “Trees are down everywhere,” Kuhr said. “The wind has been unbelievable. Branches were flying through the air, and folks could hear trees just falling and cracking.”
“This one’s a doozy,” Kuhr said.
Some 235,000 customers were without electricity throughout the state, mostly in the region south of San Francisco, according to PowerOutage.us.
The National Weather Service said the storm is a Pacific low pressure system interacting with California’s 12th atmospheric river since late December.
California’s unexpected siege of wet weather after years of drought also included February blizzards powered by arctic air.
The storms have unleashed flooding and loaded mountains with so much snow that roofs have been crushed and crews have struggled to keep highways clear of avalanches.
The Mammoth Mountain resort in the eastern Sierra Nevada announced that it will remain open for skiing and snowboarding at least through the end of July.
With a season-to-date snowfall of 634 inches at the main lodge, it was likely just one storm away from breaking the all-time record of 668 inches set in the 2010-11 season.