New storm brings more rain and snow to the West

LOS ANGELES (AP) — More rain, snow and wind hit the West on Wednesday, flooding roads, toppling trees and cutting power while raising threats of debris flows from wildfire scars.

The tempest, aimed at California and southern Oregon and barreling toward Nevada, was feeding on a deep plume of moisture stretching across the Pacific Ocean to near Hawaii, the National Weather Service said.

The storm followed more than a week of severe weather in the Pacific Northwest and was the latest in a series that has all but eliminated drought-level dryness in California this winter.

Winter storm warnings were posted in the snow-laden Sierra Nevada, where the forecast says up to 2.1 metres of new snow could be dumped at elevations above 2,743 metres.

The National Weather Service recorded winds gusting to 132 mph (213kph) late Tuesday and early Wednesday atop the Mount Rose ski resort southwest of Reno, Nevada.

A man carries an umbrella as he crosses the street in San Francisco. – AP

A backcountry avalanche warning was issued throughout the Sierra.

“We are still trying to dig out of the last system and we have another big storm here,” said Kevin “Coop” Cooper, spokesman for Kirkwood Mountain Resort south of Lake Tahoe.

Five passengers suffered minor injuries when a Delta Air Lines flight headed from Southern California to Seattle encountered severe turbulence in the storm and was forced to make an emergency landing in Reno. Photos on social media showed a drinks cart upended and snacks and soda cans littering the aisle. One passenger tweeted the plane did two nose dives in “crazy turbulence” but the crew “handled it perfectly”.

Snow heavily impacted stretches of vital Interstate 5 in far northern California, causing closures and forcing tire chain requirements.

A local state of emergency was declared in Shasta County due to “significant” storm damage, a Sheriff’s Office statement said. Redding, the county seat, turned its library into a warming centre.

Power outages also hit thousands of utility customers in the region.

In the fire-scarred Gold Rush town of Magalia, resident Doug Sheridan woke up to find electricity out across his neighbourhood, apparently the result of a fallen tree limb that downed a power line.

“It finally came back on about 9.15,” he said by phone as heavy rain pounded his house, melting snow that fell the night before and causing it to break off in large chunks and splatter on the ground.

Widespread roadway flooding occurred north of San Francisco Bay. To the east, a swath of California’s Central Valley was under a flood warning.

At one point, flight arrivals at San Francisco International Airport were experiencing delays of several hours, the Federal Aviation Administration said.