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Rain, winds sweep North Coast (w/video)

  • Caitlin Gurtner, 14, braves wind and rain as she walks home from Casa Grande High School on Wednesday in Petaluma. (Beth Schlanker / PD)

Rain arrived early Wednesday — a little ahead of schedule — the front end of two storms expected to drop more than 2 inches of rain in the North Bay valleys.

The rainfall wasn't enough to quell ongoing drought worries, but it was substantial enough to cause problems on roads across the North Bay. The CHP issued a warning Wednesday night for drivers to be alert to downed trees, mudslides and other hazards after rain and wind caused a number of roadway tangles.

Winds topped out at 30 mph at 8:30 p.m. at the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport with more sustained winds staying between 15 and 20 mph.

The wind downed trees and power lines in the west county. Power lines in the roadway closed Highway 1 near Timber Cove, emergency dispatchers said.

More winds and a return of heavier rains are expected Friday, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Steve Anderson.

While welcomed, the rain won't significantly ease the worst drought on record, said Sonoma County Water Agency spokesman Brad Sherwood. An additional 6 inches of rain are needed just to bring Sonoma County's rainfall to what it was during the drought of 1977.

Ryan Walbrun, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Monterey, concurred.

“We're so far behind, it's going to take a miracle to catch up, but any rainfall is helpful at this point,” he said.

By 4 p.m. Wednesday, 0.66 inches had fallen in Santa Rosa, according to AccuWeather, bringing the city's total rainfall for the “water year,” measured from July 1 through June 30, to 9.85. That's 36.2 percent of the amount Santa Rosa would normally have received by now, 27.19 inches.

Heavier rain fell into Wednesday evening, with 1.56 inches recorded through 10 p.m. in Santa Rosa, Walbrun said.

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