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USA: Massive rain storm cuts power to 150,000 in San Francisco

The US Pacific coast’s strongest storm in years pummeled California and Oregon yesterday, leaving at least one man dead and knocking out power in urban areas.

The storm left 150,000 customers without power Friday night NZT in the San Francisco Bay Area, including 94,000 in the city itself, the National Weather Service said.

Portland General Electric said about 18,000 customer lost power and Pacific Power (Oregon) said 32,000 lost power. An estimated 225,000 customers lost power from northern California to the Canadian border, a CNN survey of power companies showed.

Almost 63mm of rain today helped cause those outages in California, but much heavier rainfall besieged other areas of the state, including 371mm in the Petrified Forest.

The rain will alleviate three years of a historic drought in the nation’s most populous state, but it’s not being gentle. Schools pre-emptively closed Thursday in San Francisco and Oakland.

“We need it, but I wish it would come more evenly spread out, instead of all in one night,” said Kim Cheadle, who commuted from Marin County but found her San Francisco office building closed Thursday.

Hazardous travel reported 236 flight cancellations at San Francisco International Airport — 40% of the day’s 589 cancellations nationwide.

Street traffic was dicey, too. Brandon Ball, a CNN iReporter, said he flew into San Francisco Thursday morning and and got stuck in a cab on U.S. Route 101.

“Right before approaching Bayshore Boulevard, the freeway was completely flooded on both the north and southbound side, with multiple cars stuck in the water, and the respective vehicle owners sitting inside,” the Los Angeles resident said. “Cars were passing through the flooded waters in a single-file line, with authorities doing their best to guide them through.”

A ferry ride across the bay seemed more like a flight in turbulence.

“It was pretty bumpy. I swear we were airborne, up and down, everyone in great spirits and laughing. No normal ferry ride today,” said commuter Mark Montemayor.

Service was suspended on many ferry routes.

Jose Lopez couldn’t open his downtown San Francisco restaurant, a victim of the blackout.

“No, we cannot. It’s a safety issue,” he said. “Certain corners are blocked off, so we can’t do that.”

In the mountains, wind gusts were so furious that the typically smooth waters of Lake Tahoe roiled with waves, prompting Californians to do what comes naturally to them: go surfing. Gusts reached 79kmh there late today and were forecast to roar at 190kmh overnight.

Winds of 89 mph were reported in Sea Lion Caves, Oregon, said Matthew Cullen of the National Weather Service. Portland recorded gusts of 143kmh, the strongest wind recorded at their local airport since 1971.

In San Jose, a Safeway Supermarket’s roof partially collapsed and injured one customer who slipped while running, Fire Chief Mitch Matlow said. The customer suffered a minor leg injury and did not go to the hospital, Matlow said.

The chief said he didn’t know what caused the roof to collapse.

“We had a helicopter fly above the building and they were able to estimate that the hole was about 50 feet by 50 feet,” he said. “There was no standing water observed but that does not mean that it wasn’t caused by water.”

In Sebastopol, Francisco Lozano lamented how it was only two weeks ago when he left Idaho and “an epic snowstorm” and now he found himself in California’s “epic rainstorm.”

“I need to go out and buy a raincoat. I only have a snow coat,” said Lozano, a CNN iReporter who posted a video of a flood approaching a Highway 12 bridge in Sonoma County.

Flood warnings were issued for major waterways, leading residents to scramble for sandbags.


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