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Weekend storm brings relief to drought-rattled California

– Californians accustomed to complaining about the slightest change in the weather welcomed a robust weekend storm that soaked the northern half of the drought-stricken state Saturday even as rain and snow brought the threat of avalanches, flooding and rock slides.

In Willits, one of 17 rural communities that California’s Department of Public Health recently described as dangerously low on water, City Councilman Bruce Burton said he was cheered seeing the water levels in a local reservoir and his backyard pond creeping up and small streams flowing again. The city in the heart of redwood country usually sees about 50 inches of rain a year and was expected to get about 4 inches today.

“It’s guarded optimism. We are a long ways from where we need to be, but we have to start with some sort of a raindrop,” Burton said.

The storm that moved in Friday, powered by a warm, moisture-packed system from the Pacific Ocean known as a Pineapple Express, dropped more than 7 inches of rain on Marin County’s Mount Tamalpais, an average of 4 inches in Sonoma County and 1 to 3 inches in San Francisco, San Jose and other urban areas as of Saturday morning, National Weather Service hydrologist Mark Strudley said.

With areas north of San Francisco forecast to see another few inches today, the downpour, while ample enough to flood roads and prompt warnings that parched streams could be deluged to the point of overflowing, by itself will not solve the state’s drought worries, Strudley said.

The storm deposited a foot of snow for Lake Tahoe ski resorts and elevations above 7,500 feet were expected to get an additional foot or two today, said Holly Osborne, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Sacramento.

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