California whacked by 'Pineapple Express' storm

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California Storms (updated 12/12/14)
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California whacked by 'Pineapple Express' 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 churned down the West Coast Thursday, bringing strong gales and much-needed rain and snow that caused widespread blackouts in Northern California and whiteouts in the Sierra Nevada.

The brunt of the storm hit the San Francisco Bay Area, flooding freeways, toppling trees and keeping thousands of people home from work and school.

"It's a big storm, as we expected, and it's headed south with very powerful winds and heavy rainfall," said National Weather Service meteorologist Will Pi.

Strong winds felled a tree in Oregon, killing a homeless man, 40-year-old Phillip Crosby, who was sleeping on a trail. A huge gust blew down an 80-foot fir at a Santa Cruz elementary school, pinning a 6th grader by the arm for 15 minutes until chain saws cut him free.

"Unexpected, very unexpected," said the head of Gateway Elementary, Zachary Roberts, who closed the school as the boy was treated and released from a hospital.

This "Pineapple Express" storm carried warm air and vast amounts of water in a powerful current stretching from Hawaii to the mainland and up into the mountains, where gusts up to 140 mph blew through passes, damaging homes in the Lake Tahoe area.

The current left San Francisco drenched but balmy, with 60-degree temperatures, about 5 degrees above average for this time of year.

Waves slammed onto waterfronts around the Bay area, ferries were bound to their docks, airplanes were grounded and many schools and businesses told people to stay home.

The gusts made motorists tightly grip their steering wheels on the Golden Gate Bridge, where managers created a buffer zone to prevent head-on collisions by swerving cars.

The iconic suspension bridge is engineered to swing in cross winds, so "the concern we have right now is more about vehicles," spokeswoman Priya David Clemens said.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. crews worked to restore power to 113,200 people, with the largest group of 66,400 in San Francisco, spokesman Jeff Smith said. The utility's online map showed lights out over thousands of square miles, from Humboldt near the Oregon border to Big Sur on the Central Coast.

There were multiple accidents on flooded roads, and several trees crunched cars. California's critical north-south Interstate 5 thruway was closed by flooding in the northern town of Weed.

"A lot of people took the day off," CalTrans spokesman Bob Haus said. "That's a good thing."

Disembarking from a ferry in San Francisco, Malcolm Oubre said some people were overreacting.

"I know it's a big storm supposedly, but they're treating it like it's a hurricane," he said.

Teenagers drove trucks through a flooded Safeway parking lot to make waves for kayakers in Healdsburg as grocery shoppers trudged through several feet of water to get supplies.

East Coast kids revel in snow days, but closures are rare on the West Coast, so Thursday's cancelled classes were a novelty in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Sonoma and Santa Cruz County.

Surfers welcomed big, choppy swells from the same high seas that sent towering sprays of water airborne along breakfronts in San Francisco and Monterey.

Ski resorts in the northern Sierra Nevada - where schools and roads were closed by whiteout conditions and power outages - were hoping for three feet of snow once it all settles.

Rains were expected to continue through Friday evening across much of California, and some rivers and creeks were rising fast.

Even so, California's farmers would need more storms this size to even begin to recover from a record drought.

The storm was spreading into Southern California, areas that have suffered wildfires were preparing for mudslides.

Denise George, who sells boats in Marina Del Rey, worried mostly about the wind.

"We make sure the halyards are secure, the canvasses are fastened so nothing gets blown off or opened up, so yes we are battening down the hatches for sure."

Also check out the massive apartment fire that broke out in LA earlier this week:

27 PHOTOS
Los Angeles Apartment Fire
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California whacked by 'Pineapple Express' 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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