California residents load up sandbags, brace for big storm

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California Storms (updated 12/12/14)
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California residents load up sandbags, brace for big storm
Trending: Carmel River diverted to allow dam removal, prevent catastrophic mudslide http://t.co/4dKkwPf8nA http://t.co/FPNi1EPEaF
Mudslides & floods hit California,US http://t.co/uk0sA2AAc2 #SoCal #Cali #hellastorm #SoCalStorm #californiastorm http://t.co/8YhFGobg6Z
#NorCal copes, tweets, posts amid #californiastorm. #NorCalStorm By @VeronicaRochaLA http://t.co/8b6YlfTRbZ http://t.co/Juar2oHVSc
120' Eucalyptus fell on Albertson's in Buellton during last nights storm. Stay with us for latest! #californiastorm http://t.co/XOmrFfKiRg
Intense rains flood the streets of #Windsor #California ... #californiastorm http://t.co/X6isHi2nUL
Torrential rain triggering mudslides in Camarillo Springs. Residents rescued after mud trapped them in their homes. http://t.co/0S8K09ZHMF
Several mudslides in Calif. Evacuations #happeningnow. Watch #News5Today for the video. http://t.co/xOAqCIoOKH
California is bracing for what some meteorologists are calling the fiercest storm in over 5 years.
Satellite Imagery of Northern California taken by the NOAA (12/11/14)
Satellite Imagery of Northern California taken by the NOAA (12/11/14)
@sal_castaneda street flooded before 8:00 a.m. http://t.co/JgLhS8mMfd
#hellastorm update: uber about to surpass Halloween2014 pricing??? http://t.co/eDmiEyissX
SAN ANSELMO, CA - DECEMBER 10: Staysea Colteaux (L) and Chris Furbee (R) set up sandbags and seal a vent in front of Dogville on December 10, 2014 in San Anselmo, California. The San Francisco Bay Area is bracing for a severe storm that is expected to bring high winds and heavy rain that could topple trees and cause widespread flooding. Urban areas could see up to 6 inches of rain in less than 24 hours. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 10: People pick up free sandbags at the San Francisco Department of Public Works corporation yard on December 10, 2014 in San Francisco, California. The San Francisco Bay Area is bracing for a severe storm that is expected to bring high winds and heavy rain that could topple trees and cause widespread flooding. Urban areas could see up to 6 inches of rain in less than 24 hours. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 10: A man lifts sandbags that are being given away for free at the San Francisco Department of Public Works corporation yard on December 10, 2014 in San Francisco, California. The San Francisco Bay Area is bracing for a severe storm that is expected to bring high winds and heavy rain that could topple trees and cause widespread flooding. Urban areas could see up to 6 inches of rain in less than 24 hours. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 10: People pick up free sandbags at the San Francisco Department of Public Works corporation yard on December 10, 2014 in San Francisco, California. The San Francisco Bay Area is bracing for a severe storm that is expected to bring high winds and heavy rain that could topple trees and cause widespread flooding. Urban areas could see up to 6 inches of rain in less than 24 hours. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 10: A man picks up a free sandbag at the San Francisco Department of Public Works corporation yard on December 10, 2014 in San Francisco, California. The San Francisco Bay Area is bracing for a severe storm that is expected to bring high winds and heavy rain that could topple trees and cause widespread flooding. Urban areas could see up to 6 inches of rain in less than 24 hours. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Satellite view of storms on both U.S. coasts taken on Tuesday, December 9, 2014. (NOAA / NASA)
Satellite Imagery of Northern California taken by the NOAA (12/10/14)
MILL VALLEY, CA - DECEMBER 03: A Mill Valley police officer directs cars through a flooded section of roadway on December 3, 2014 in Mill Valley, California. The San Francisco Bay Area is being hit with its first major storm of the year that is bringing heavy rain, lightning and hail to the region. The heavy overnight rain has caused flooding which has blocked several roadways and caused severe traffic backups. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Satellite Imagery of Northern California taken by the NOAA (12/10/14)
Satellite Imagery of Northern California taken by the NOAA (12/10/14)

Satellite Imagery of Northern California taken by the NOAA (12/10/14)

MILL VALLEY, CA - DECEMBER 03: A motorist drives through a flooded intersection on December 3, 2014 in Mill Valley, California. The San Francisco Bay Area is being hit with its first major storm of the year that is bringing heavy rain, lightning and hail to the region. The heavy overnight rain has caused flooding which has blocked several roadways and caused severe traffic backups. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
MILL VALLEY, CA - DECEMBER 03: A car sits partially submerged in water on a flooded section of roadway on December 3, 2014 in Mill Valley, California. The San Francisco Bay Area is being hit with its first major storm of the year that is bringing heavy rain, lightning and hail to the region. The heavy overnight rain has caused flooding which has blocked several roadways and caused severe traffic backups. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
MILL VALLEY, CA - DECEMBER 03: A cyclist rides through a flooded section of roadway on December 3, 2014 in Mill Valley, California. The San Francisco Bay Area is being hit with its first major storm of the year that is bringing heavy rain, lightning and hail to the region. The heavy overnight rain has caused flooding which has blocked several roadways and caused severe traffic backups. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 10: A San Francisco Department of Public works employee directs a line of cars waiting to enter the San Francisco DPW corporation yard to pick up free sandbags on December 10, 2014 in San Francisco, California. The San Francisco Bay Area is bracing for a severe storm that is expected to bring high winds and heavy rain that could topple trees and cause widespread flooding. Urban areas could see up to 6 inches of rain in less than 24 hours. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
WOW!! This is the scene NOW: #Valley & #Dolores - flash flooding/blocked sewers, threaten homes! #SF #NoeValley http://t.co/cKqJXmAeIG
Flooded car under 3 feet of water in downtown San Jose. The Alameda at Stockton Ave. @CBSSF http://t.co/mkHAqILpO9
Raindrops are seen on a vehicle's window in Arcadia, California, on December 2, 2014, amid a steady and sometimes heavy rainfall soaking southern California, where despite some minor flooding and slick roads, major mudslides or debris flows that had officials and residents on high alert in recent foothill community burn areas have been avoided. AFP PHOTO/Frederic J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman walks amid a channel of running water flowing down Rainbow Drive in Glendora, California, on December 2, 2014, amid a steady and sometimes heavy rainfall soaking southern California, where despite some minor flooding and slick roads, major mudslides or debris flows that had officials and residents on high alert in recent burn areas like Glendora have been avoided. AFP PHOTO/Frederic J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
A man reaches out to hold an umbrella holding as a woman prepares to leap across a channel of running water flowing down Rainbow Drive in Glendora, California, on December 2, 2014, amid a steady and sometimes heavy rainfall soaking southern California, where despite some minor flooding and slick roads, major mudslides or debris flows that had officials and residents on high alert in recent burn areas like Glendora have been avoided. AFP PHOTO/Frederic J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
Neighborhood resident Casey Tice uses a rake to help channel running water into a drain along Rainbow Drive in Glendora, California, on December 2, 2014, amid a steady and sometimes heavy rainfall soaking southern California, where despite some minor flooding and slick roads, major mudslides or debris flows that had officials and residents on high alert in recent burn areas like Glendora have been avoided. AFP PHOTO/Frederic J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
Raindrops are seen on a vehicle's window as a woman crosses a street in Rosemead, California, on December 2, 2014, amid a steady and sometimes heavy rainfall soaking southern California, where despite some minor flooding and slick roads, major mudslides or debris flows that had officials and residents on high alert in recent foothill community burn areas have been avoided. AFP PHOTO/Frederic J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
A man holding an umbrella leaps across a channel of running water flowing down Rainbow Drive in Glendora, California, on December 2, 2014, amid a steady and sometimes heavy rainfall soaking southern California, where despite some minor flooding and slick roads, major mudslides or debris flows that had officials and residents on high alert in recent burn areas like Glendora have been avoided. AFP PHOTO/Frederic J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
Neighborhood resident Casey Tice uses a rake to help channel running water into a drain along Rainbow Drive in Glendora, California, on December 2, 2014, amid a steady and sometimes heavy rainfall soaking southern California, where despite some minor flooding and slick roads, major mudslides or debris flows that had officials and residents on high alert in recent burn areas like Glendora have been avoided. AFP PHOTO/Frederic J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
Neighborhood resident Casey Tice uses a rake to help channel running water into a drain along Rainbow Drive in Glendora, California, on December 2, 2014, amid a steady and sometimes heavy rainfall soaking southern California. Despite some minor flooding and slick roads, major mudslides or debris flows that had officials and residents on high alert in recent burn areas like Glendora have been avoided. AFP PHOTO/Frederic J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A powerful storm expected to pack hurricane force winds and heavy rain triggered emergency preparations across Northern California on Wednesday, with residents gathering sand bags, crews clearing storm drains and San Francisco school officials canceling classes for the first time since 9/11.

As much as 8 inches of rain could fall on coastal mountains over a 24-hour period starting late Wednesday, the National Weather Service said.

Ski resorts in the northern Sierra Nevada could get more than 2 feet of snow before the storm moves through Southern California and to the east with less strength through states including Nevada, Idaho, Arizona and New Mexico. Those states could get rain and snow, but nothing like what California is expected to experience, forecasters say.

"It's a short amount of time for that amount of water," weather service forecaster Diana Henderson said. "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."

Northern California Prepares for Biggest Storm in Years

The storm is expected to be one of the windiest and rainiest in five years and could also cause debris slides, especially in areas affected by this year's intense and widespread wildfires. Big waves are expected along the coast.

Public schools in San Francisco and Oakland and some private schools in the Bay Area planned to stay closed Thursday.

San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Richard A. Carranza said he didn't want to put students at risk, and staff absences and power outages could affect the district's ability to supervise and feed students.

Wind gusts of up to 70 mph were expected on mountain tops, creating possible blizzard conditions in the Sierra. Rain, pounding surf and gusty winds were forecast for Southern California starting Thursday evening.

The weather service issued a high-surf advisory from the Central Coast to Ventura County, saying "waves will over-top jetties and sea walls at times" and "will potentially wash into low-lying beach areas or parking lots."

In California's agricultural heartland, farmers were looking forward to the dousing after three consecutive dry years. Parts of the state have experienced above-average rainfall this year, but not enough to make much of a dent in the drought.

James McFarlane, a third-generation farmer in Fresno County, said workers would have to stop picking citrus crops during the storm, but rain this time of year makes fruit bigger, allowing it to fetch higher prices.

"If we're not getting some Mother-Nature-dictated time off out in the field, that probably means we're going to have a hard time finding surface water in the warmer months," he said.

The rain and the snow in the Sierra Nevada fills reservoirs that supply irrigation water during hot, dry months.

In San Francisco, where as much as 4 inches of rain was forecast, crews cleared storm drains and removed loose rocks from a hillside to prevent them from crashing down. Residents were advised to sweep up leaves and debris in front of their properties to prevent them from clogging drains.

"We have crews working starting tonight in 12-hour shifts," said Rachel Gordon, a spokeswoman for San Francisco's public works agency. "It will be all hands on deck."

Farther north, a series of strong weather fronts with high winds and heavy rains could lead to flooding and landslides this week in western Washington state.

The weather service expects as much as 14 inches of rain between Monday and Thursday in the Olympic Mountains west of Seattle.

Saturated soils will bring the risk of mudslides, while winds could topple trees.

High winds were also forecast in Oregon.

Also check out the this week's massive Los Angeles apartment fire:

27 PHOTOS
Los Angeles Apartment Fire
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California residents load up sandbags, brace for big storm
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 27: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (R) addresses the media outside of City Hall East on May 27, 2015 in Downtown Los Angeles, California. Garcetti discussed the arrest of Dawud Abdulwali, 56, of Los Angeles, a suspect in the Da Vinci apartment complex fire. Also pictured are Special Agent in Charge at ATF Carlos Canino (2nd L) and LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas (3rd L). (Photo by Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

An aerial perspective of the blaze from a distance.

Photo Credit: Lawrence

A likely unprecedented reward of $170,000 was slated to be offered in the investigation into a massive fire that destroyed an apartment complex under construction in downtown Los Angeles, officials announced Wednesday.

Smoke filters to the sky in the early morning hours as remnants of the blaze are extinguished by the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Photo Credit: Patrick Lawler

Embers raise from surrounding buildings during the downtown blaze.

Photo Credit: Mama_Cho

Fire and ember consume the skies as the quickly moving blaze consumed the building.

Photo Credit: Derrick Huey

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 8: Early morning sunlight slants through the smoldering ruins of a seven-story apartment building under construction that was destroy by fire on December 8, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. The fire also damaged nearby high-rise buildings and shut down freeways, causing massive traffic problems for morning commuters. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 8: Firefighters battle a fire that destroyed a seven-story apartment building under construction on December 8, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. The fire also damaged nearby high-rise buildings and shut down freeways, causing massive traffic problems for morning commuters. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 8: Early morning sunlight slants through the smoldering ruins of a seven-story apartment building under construction that was destroy by fire on December 8, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. The fire also damaged nearby high-rise buildings and shut down freeways, causing massive traffic problems for morning commuters. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 8: Firefighters battle a fire that destroyed a seven-story apartment building under construction on December 8, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. The fire also damaged nearby high-rise buildings and shut down freeways, causing massive traffic problems for morning commuters. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 8: The ruins of a seven-story apartment building under construction that was destroy by fire smolder alongside the 110 freeway on December 8, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. The fire also damaged nearby high-rise buildings and shut down freeways, causing massive traffic problems for morning commuters. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 8: Firefighters hose down the smoldering ruins of a seven-story apartment building under construction alongside the 110 freeway that was destroy in an early morning fire on December 8, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. The fire also damaged nearby high-rise buildings and shut down freeways, causing massive traffic problems for morning commuters. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
Aftermath of this morning's apartment fire along the 110...from above http://t.co/M3fb6UlWOf
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 8: A jet taking off from LAX passes a lone standing staircase in the smoldering ruins of a seven-story apartment building under construction that was destroy in an early morning fire on December 8, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. The fire also damaged nearby high-rise buildings and shut down freeways, causing massive traffic problems for morning commuters. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 8: Workers toss a sign over the 110 freeway that was ruined in an early morning fire that destroyed a seven-story apartment building under construction on December 8, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. The fire also damaged nearby high-rise buildings and shut down freeways, causing massive traffic problems for morning commuters. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 8: Northbound lanes of the 110 freeway remain closed as Firefighters battle a fire that destroyed a seven-story apartment building under construction on December 8, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. The fire also damaged nearby high-rise buildings and shut down freeways, causing massive traffic problems for morning commuters. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 8: Northbound lanes of the 110 freeway remain closed as firefighters battle a fire that destroyed a seven-story apartment building under construction on December 8, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. The fire also damaged nearby high-rise buildings and shut down freeways, causing massive traffic problems for morning computers. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 8: Firefighters battle a fire that destroyed a seven-story apartment building under construction on December 8, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. The fire also damaged nearby high-rise buildings and shut down freeways, causing massive traffic problems for morning commuters. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 8: Firefighters battle a fire that destroyed a seven-story apartment building under construction on December 8, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. The fire also damaged nearby high-rise buildings and shut down freeways, causing massive traffic problems for morning commuters. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 8: Firefighters battle a fire that destroyed a seven-story apartment building under construction on December 8, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. The fire also damaged nearby high-rise buildings and shut down freeways, causing massive traffic problems for morning commuters. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
Firefighters douse the remains of a fire that destroyed an apartment complex that was under construction, in downtown Los Angeles, California, December 8, 2014. A pair of massive fires burst across the Los Angeles skyline early Monday, damaging four buildings and closing down freeways during the morning commute. No injuries were reported but the flames near a downtown freeway interchange could be seen for miles and billowing clouds of smoke closed down adjacent highways in two directions. City fire officials were unable to give an immediate cause for the blaze, which severely damaged a seven-story apartment building that was under construction. Damage to the structure appeared to be nearly total. Flames spread for a whole city block, nearly a million square feet, officials said. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Firefighters douse flames at the remains of the DaVinci apartment complex after a fire destroyed the 1 million square foot site, in Los Angeles, California, December 8, 2014. A pair of massive fires burst across the Los Angeles skyline early Monday, damaging four buildings and closing down freeways during the morning commute. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Firefighters douse the remains of a fire that destroyed an apartment complex that was under construction, in downtown Los Angeles, California, December 8, 2014. A pair of massive fires burst across the Los Angeles skyline early Monday, damaging four buildings and closing down freeways during the morning commute. No injuries were reported but the flames near a downtown freeway interchange could be seen for miles and billowing clouds of smoke closed down adjacent highways in two directions. City fire officials were unable to give an immediate cause for the blaze, which severely damaged a seven-story apartment building that was under construction. Damage to the structure appeared to be nearly total. Flames spread for a whole city block, nearly a million square feet, officials said. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 8: Firefighters battle a fire that destroyed a seven-story apartment building under construction on December 8, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. The fire also damaged nearby high-rise buildings and shut down freeways, causing massive traffic problems for morning commuters. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 8: Firefighters battle a fire that destroyed a seven-story apartment building under construction on December 8, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. The fire also damaged nearby high-rise buildings and shut down freeways, causing massive traffic problems for morning commuters. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 8: Firefighters mop up a fire that destroyed a seven-story apartment building under construction on December 8, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. The fire also damaged nearby high-rise buildings and shut down freeways, causing massive traffic problems for morning commuters. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 8: Firefighters battle a fire that destroyed a seven-story apartment building under construction on December 8, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. The fire also damaged nearby high-rise buildings and shut down freeways, causing massive traffic problems for morning computers. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
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Associated Press writer Scott Smith in Fresno contributed to this report.

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