Northern California braced Thursday for its windiest and rainiest storm in at least five years as officials canceled schools, residents stocked up on flashlights and batteries, and more than 50,000 utility customers lost power. The historic storm known as Pineapple Express is expected to cause debris slides and big waves.
California faces as much as 8 inches of rain and wind gusts of up to 50 mph through Friday, according to the National Weather Service. “It’s a short amount of time for that amount of water,” forecaster Diana Henderson said, according to the Guardian. “We are anticipating some localized flooding, maybe some downed trees and downed power lines. It could have an effect on a wide range of people.”
In Southern California, the storm could also bring rain, wind and flooding before moving on to Nevada, Idaho, Arizona and New Mexico. The weather service issued a high-surf advisory from the Central Coast to Ventura County, warning that “waves will over-top jetties and sea walls at times” and “will potentially wash into low-lying beach areas or parking lots.”
In San Francisco, the city's famous cable car system was closed amid concern over the effectiveness of brakes in wet conditions. Subway and ferry service was also shut down, according to USA Today. San Francisco International Airport saw 113 outgoing flights and 123 inbound flights canceled as of late Thursday morning, with inbound flights delayed by nearly four hours.
In nearby Healdsburg, a small farming town, the flooding left cars stalled on streets. Laura Cobar, a Safeway employee, said she was worried the rising waters would enter the grocery store. "We got kids canoeing in our parking lot, and there's water up to our doors," she told the Associated Press.
Near the California-Nevada border, winds gusting to 140 miles an hour flew through Sierra Nevada mountain, knocking down trees in the Lake Tahoe area and blocking commercial airline flights in Reno.
The storm's "atmospheric river" has been dubbed Pineapple Express because it originated in Hawaii. It's also sometimes referred to as a "horizontal hurricane," according to the Washington Post.
Social media users posted photos of the storm on Twitter Thursday.
Even though California got significant rains this week, it wasn't enough to budge the drought—yet. pic.twitter.com/QITXWcSZTp
— Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) December 4, 2014
— DGDG (@DGDGCARS) December 11, 2014
— Dan Saso (@DanSaso) December 11, 2014
— Steve Greene ✈ (@xsgreene) December 11, 2014