El Niño-Fueled California storms leave 2 dead

California Braces for Series of El Niño-Related Storms

A woman in California drowned after the car she was in drove into floodwaters as El Niño-inspired storms hit the area over the weekend, and homes were damaged.

The woman, who was not identified, was a passenger in a car that drove around a blockade in Olivehurst and became submerged, NBC affiliate KCRA reported. A man who was driving the car escaped, the station said. It was unclear if he would be charged with a crime.

"The water was 6 to 8 feet deep by the time we were able to get into the vehicle. It took the dive team a while to find it," Olivehurst Fire Chief Wade Harrison told reporters.

"Turn around, find another way around — it's not worth it," Harrison said.

Another person was killed in San Ramon, when the driver's car jumped off the roadway and hit several trees, according to NBC Bay Area. Officials said that a wet roadway and speeding were the likely causes of the crash.

A series of storms began sweeping through much of California Friday and are expected to last through Monday, forecasters said.

Droves of snowboarders, skiers and sledders packed nearby slopes Saturday, while tourists braved wet weather and visited San Francisco landmarks before an even more blustery storm arrived later in the day, bringing nearly an inch and a half of rain — breaking a daily rainfall record set in 1962.

"It doesn't matter if it rains, we want to see as much as possible because we only have four days," said Olle Klefbom, a tourist from Sweden wearing rain jackets and holding umbrellas with his family, who waited for a cable car on Saturday afternoon. "We want to go to Alcatraz this afternoon. But if it rains too hard, we'll go shopping instead."

Gusting winds, which reached 50 mph in some places, toppled trees. More than 28,000 people were without power in the Sacramento area, the Sacramento Metropolitan Utility District said. More 30,000 Pacific Gas & Electric customers were in the dark Saturday night, the utility said.

Between three and four inches of rain fell on parts of Sonoma and Napa counties, the weather service said.

Downtown Soquel, in Santa Cruz County got more than an inch and a half in a one hour period Saturday, according to county officials. Creeks rose above flood stage but subsided by Sunday, they said.

In San Jose, flooding led to mudslides and rock slides that blocked a lane on Highway 17, according to Weather.com.

Winds between 30 and 45 mph blew in a region from Los Angeles County to Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo recorded 0.78 inches of rain over 24 hours, the National Weather Service said Saturday night. In Monterey, south of Santa Cruz, 0.69 inches of rain fell in six hours Saturday, the NWS said.

A second round of storms is forecast to sweep across California Sunday night into Monday morning. The influx of rain could cause coastal flooding and more mudslides, the National Weather Service warned.

Storms could continue through the entire week, according to Weather.com, which said it was too early to forecast what path the storms may take. But forecasters said several more inches of rain could fall in the lower elevations of Central and Northern California, and snow would likely be measured in feet in higher elevations.

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