Storm system brings first rain shower to Bay Area

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SAN FRANCISCO — Tonight it began to rain in the Bay Area as the storm system off the coast brought the potential for record rainfall over the next few days.

A low-pressure system spawned by Typhoon Merbok moved along the coast of Northern California late Saturday night, bringing with it a period of rare September rain.

A wind advisory went into effect at 6 a.m. Sunday morning for the coast and coastal hills for southerly gusts of up to 45 mph.

According to the Bay Area Office of the National Weather Service, overnight rainfall ranged from a few hundredths in Marin and southern Napa Valley to an average of 0.25 Sonoma Valleys. The area with the most rain early Sunday was northwestern Sonoma, with parts of the region getting 0.50-0.68 inches.

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Any significant rainfall is likely to threaten the records for the month. September tends to be one of the driest months of the year, so the oncoming storm is surprising for the drought-parched region.

“September is climatically the third driest month of the year, so predicted rainfall amounts in the order of a few tenths of an inch to 1 inch (locally 1-2 inch hills/mtns) compared to the 30-year Sept normals that are easily can be reached 800% of normal in many areas to nearly 1,000% in the North Bay,” the weather service said.

Daytime peaks will be in the 60s and 70s across the region. Nighttime lows will usually be in the 50s. While most rain is expected for Sunday, scattered showers are likely through Monday.

Sunday night calls for rain and lows in the low 60s.

The remnants of Typhoon Merbok moved north through the Bering Strait on Saturday, causing widespread flooding in several coastal communities in western Alaska, shutting down power and causing residents to flee to higher elevations.

The force of the water knocked some houses off their foundations and a house in Nome drifted down a river until it got stuck near a bridge.

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In Alaska, no injuries or deaths were immediately reported, said Jeremy Zidek, spokesman for the Alaska Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Officials had warned that some places could experience the worst flooding in 50 years and that it could take up to 14 hours for the high water to subside.

Governor Mike Dunleavy issued a disaster statement during the day.

The nearly 1,000-mile (1,609-kilometer) storm front has damaged roads and possibly other infrastructure, Dunleavy said at a news conference Saturday night. Officials will evaluate any impacts on water and sewage systems, sea defenses, fuel storage depots, airports and ports.

Representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency were already in Alaska before the storm, and Dunleavy said they will continue to help assess the damage.

“Our goal is to get the assessments done as quickly as possible,” he said. “We’re moving as fast as we can to provide help, provide recovery and provide the essentials people need.”

One of the hardest hit communities was Golovin, a village of about 170 residents who usually sought shelter in a school or in three buildings on a hill. Winds in the village were more than 60 mph (95 kph) and the water rose 11 feet (3.3 meters) above the normal high tide line and would rise another 60 centimeters on Saturday before reaching the top.

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“Most of the lower part of the community is inundated with structures and buildings that are under water,” said Ed Plumb, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fairbanks.

Clarabelle Lewis, the facility manager of the tribal government, the Chinik Eskimo Community, was among those who took refuge on the hill overlooking Golovin. She and others rode out of the storm at the tribal office after securing items in their home from high winds and helping neighbors do the same.

“The wind howled, it was noisy,” she said.

Most communities experienced gusts ranging from 66 km/h to 107 km/h, but Cape Romanzof had peak winds of 146 km/h, the weather service said.

Lewis has never seen a storm like this in the 20 years he has lived in Golovin.

“We’ve had flooding a few times in the past, but it’s never been this severe,” she said. “We’ve never moved houses from their foundations.”

There were also reports of flooding in Hooper Bay, St. Michael’s, Unalakleet and Shaktoolik, where waves crashed over the berm in front of the community, Plumb said.

In Hooper Bay, more than 250 people took shelter in the school, Bethel’s public radio station KYUK reported. The village is one of the largest along the coast with nearly 1,400 inhabitants.

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