Californians see sprinkles as bigger storm brews
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Dry California got a much needed taste of rain, but drought-watchers hope it was just a teaser for a much wetter weekend.
A bigger storm expected to arrive late Friday and last through Sunday could dump as much as 2 feet of snow on the slopes of the Sierra and 6 inches of rain on San Francisco Bay Area mountains.
But forecasters say it's the least of what's needed in one of the driest rain seasons on record.
"I won't say the storm door is open, but maybe we'll get into more of a routine storm pattern now," said Bob Benjamin, a National Weather Service forecaster in Monterey.
San Francisco received a little less than three-quarters of an inch Thursday.
Oakland had about a half-inch, but with more expected it was enough to cause the advance cancellation of the city's First Fridays outdoor street party for the first time in its two-year history, city officials announced.
Rain contributed to several major crashes on Bay Area highways. In one, a big rig went over the median on Interstate 80 in San Pablo, but the driver was not hurt.
In the northern Sierra, the National Weather Service was forecasting as much as 6 inches of snow at higher elevations.
Southern California, meanwhile, had stretches of steady rains in some areas and scattered showers in others, but the totals nearly everywhere remained under a quarter-inch.
The rainfall prompted state fire officials to lift a ban on outdoor open burning in parts of northern and central California.
The weekend storm could bring a couple more inches of rain to San Francisco and Sacramento, the National Weather Service said.
Sacramento normally experiences more than 12 inches of rainfall between July and now, said George Cline, another weather service forecaster. Even if the weekend storm dumps as much rain as expected, Sacramento will only be at half its normal levels.
And the state as a whole would remain well off its normal rainfall totals for the year. February is normally the wettest month, as recorded in downtown Los Angeles, with average rainfall of 3.8 inches. The region, however, has yet to see a generalized rainstorm this month.
In one of the rare places that wasn't wanting for rain, the PGA Tour's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am golf tournament near Monterey had a weather delay of about three hours Thursday. Golfers were set to finish the first round Friday morning but were likely to face delays all weekend at the tournament so notorious for rain delays that players and fans say it brings storms to the state with it.