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Downpour Lashes California; Storms Dumps Snow from Plains to Applachians

February 15, 1986

Undated (AP) _ Twin storms battered East and West today, with 60 mph winds and torrential rain turning California hills into walls of water and mud and as much as 8 inches of snow piling up on parts of the Atlantic states.

In California, first lady Nancy Reagan stuffed towels under the door to keep water out of the family ranchhouse as torrential rain threatened more flooding and mudslides in areas denuded by summer brushfires.

A second storm surged across the Midwest and dumped snow from Tennessee to the Atlantic Coast, making driving treacherous and giving an extra day off to schoolchildren who already had a long weekend because of Washington’s Birthday on Monday.

The western storm was moving inland today with winter storm warnings posted across much of Washington, northern Idaho, Montana, western Wyoming and the Colorado Rockies. About 2 feet of snow had fallen at higher elevations of California’s northern Sierra nevada since Friday afternoon and wind gusted to nearly 70 mph this morning at San Francisco, with gusts to 78 mph during the night at Boulder, Colo., the National Weather Service said.

Travelers’ advisories extended eastward into the Dakotas.

Heavy rain was expected to continue swamping coastal California through Sunday, though there was a brief calm this morning, and most of the area was under a flash flood watch today. In the 24 hours up to 7 a.m. EST, 2.56 inches had fallen at the Marin Civic Center, with 2.06 inches at downtown Oakland and 2.01 inches at Red Bluff, which had a three-day total of 4.48 inches.

Travelers advisories were in effect in much of the East, and up to 8 inches of new snow fell during the night in North Carolina’s northern mountains. Drivers were warned of icy roads from southeastern New York state south to the northeastern mountains of Georgia.

That storm, which had swept across the Rockies and the Midwest during the week, was centered off the central Atlantic Coast today.

″That storm’s been moving at a pretty good clip,″ said Scott Tansey, a meteorologist at the weather service’s Severe Storms Center in Kansas City, Mo.

On Friday, up to 9 inches of snow fell in Virginia, 8 inches in Tennessee and Kentucky, 6 inches in Illinois, and 4 inches in Maryland and Delaware.

Students looking forward to a three-day holiday weekend got an extra day off Friday in Kentucky, where at least four dozen county school systems were closed, in Hamilton County in southeastern Illinois, and in western Virginia.

Floods and mudslides hit California on Friday. In Petaluma, about 40 miles north of San Francisco, about 200 homes were evacuated as Petaluma River floodwaters rose up to 6 feet, said city spokeswoman Pat Berhard.

Napa, nearly 20 miles east of Petaluma, has received 5.13 inches of rain since Thursday, said Bob Diaz, a forecaster with the National Weather Service.

In Santa Barbara County to the south, the storm knocked out power briefly to vacationing President Reagan’s ranch in the Santa Ynez Mountains and forced Mrs. Reagan to keep water out of the house with towels, said her press secretary, Elaine Crispen.

″I think this is the worst storm we have ever seen at the ranch,″ the press secretary quoted Mrs. Reagan as saying. The weather also kept the president from riding horseback for the third straight day. The Reagans were scheduled to leave today.

The rain threatened mudslides near Los Gatos about 50 miles southeast of San Francisco, where summer brush fires denuded the area, and a voluntary evacuation center was set up at a local high school. Officials early today did not know if anyone had gone to the center.

Mudslides were also expected in Ojai, about 70 miles northwest of Los Angeles, but none were reported. About a third of the town’s residents were warned of potential mudslides and flooding, and a handful showed up at an evacuation center Friday night, said Ventura County Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Lewis.

Power was knocked out Friday to about 175,000 Pacific Gas & Electric Co. customers in northern and central California and 20,000 customers in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties to the south, utility spokesmen said. By today, 80 percent of the northern and central customers and all but 5,000 in the south had their electricity back.

A mudslide demolished a house in Boulder Creek in the Santa Cruz mountains and about 14 nearby homes were evacuated because of a slide 25 yards wide, police said. No injuries were reported.

Around San Francisco, U.S. 101, the highway leading to the Golden Gate Bridge, was closed at the Marin-Sonoma county line by about 5 feet of rapidly flowing water. An alternate route was closed, blocking off residents in Sonoma and northern Marin County residents, said Mike O’Brien of the California Highway Patrol.

Officials canceled bus service in Marin and Sonoma counties, and flights were delayed at San Francisco International airport, officials said.

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