Arctic storm bears down on California |

Arctic storm bears down on California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) ” A fierce arctic storm lashed the California coast Friday, threatening to paralyze the mountains with deep snow and bring devastating rain to a coastal landscape already charred by wildfires.

The northern half of the state was being hit with strong rain, 85-mph wind and heavy snow in the Sierra Nevada, National Weather Service forecaster Andrew Rorke said.

In Southern California, the storm was gathering strength off the coast and was expected to strike the region by mid-afternoon, Rorke said.

“We’re watching it really blossom on satellite,” he said.

Homeowners rushed to stack sandbags around houses lying below fire-ravaged hillsides in Southern California, while Northern California residents ” like those along the Gulf Coast before a hurricane ” scurried to stock up on last-minute provisions. Forecasters warned the high wind and other extreme weather would last through the weekend.

In the eastern Sierra ski town of Mammoth Lakes, resident Barbara Sholle went to the supermarket after receiving a call from the town’s reverse-911 system. She waited an hour to pay for her groceries amid a crush of residents.

“People were waiting in line for shopping carts,” she said.

The storm system began dumping rain and snow Thursday in parts of Northern California. Power outages, damaged electrical lines and downed trees were reported in the Sacramento area by nightfall.

The U.S. Forest Service issued an avalanche warning for Mount Shasta, in the Cascade Range in far Northern California, while the National Weather Service issued a rare blizzard advisory for the Sierra Nevada.

The storm system brought high wind warnings along the coast. Ocean tides were expected to swell to 30 feet, leading the Coast Guard to caution boaters to remain in port.

“If you don’t have to go out this weekend, it might be a nice weekend to stay at home after the holidays,” said Frank McCarton, chief deputy director of the California Office of Emergency Services.

A rare blizzard warning for the mountains and Lake Tahoe region remained in effect until Saturday morning, and chains or snow tires were required on all vehicles in mountain passes. Forecasters said several feet of snow was expected, along with winds gusting to 150 mph and zero visibility.

“It’s been several years since we’ve seen a storm this impressive,” said Chris Jordan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Reno, Nev.

As the storms barreled into the West, forecasters were expecting a freeze in the East to subside. After a freezing day virtually everywhere east of the Mississippi River, temperatures in the East were to climb Friday.


Associated Press writer Gillian Flaccus in Orange County contributed to this report.

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