The worst of several severe winter storms passed over the Bay Area Friday, but don't expect to see stars in the night sky until at least Thursday, weather experts say.
The latest storm hit the Bay Area Friday morning and lashed the region most of the day, knocking out power for more than 500,000 residences and business and tossing around everything from trashcans to big rigs.
The powerful Arctic system, said to be the strongest to hit the Bay Area in several years, swept some areas with hurricane-force winds exceeding 80 mph and dropped several inches of rain.
As of 6 p.m., the wind and rain had somewhat let up. One more storm, a much weaker system, is expected to pass over the region early Sunday, Benjamin said.
"That storm will be like a speed bump compared to today's," he said Friday.
Benjamin predicted the high winds and heavy rains would taper off Friday night. Scattered showers are expected Saturday morning before the third storm moves into the Bay Area on Sunday.
When the third storm passes, the greater Bay Area will have received about 3 to 5 inches of rain total, and 6 to 10 inches in the mountain areas, according to the National Weather Service.
The terrible weather has been detrimental to the region's utilities and roadways.
As of late Friday, more than 350,000 Bay Area PG&E customers were still sitting in the dark after losing power, said spokesman David Eisenhauer. At one point, more than 520,000 customers were without power.
Eisenhauer said that 26 percent of PG&E's customers in its Northern and Central California service area, totaling 1.3 million customers, were without power at some point Friday. Twenty-two percent of those customers have had their power restored, he said.
The utility officials said it may take several days before power is restored to many of the customers.
The storm also caused havoc on roads and highways. Two northbound lanes of U.S. Highway 101 under the Interstate 580 overpass were closed in Marin County due to debris falling from the overcrossing under construction, according to the California Highway Patrol. The freeway re-opened around 4 p.m.
Sig-alerts were issued just before 8 a.m. for westbound Interstate Highway 80 in Berkeley, eastbound Interstate Highway 80 in Solano County, and northbound U.S. Highway 101 in San Francisco.
Multiple big-rig collisions closed the eastbound Richmond-San Rafael Bridge around 8:30 a.m. The bridge was expected to stay closed as late as midnight Friday.
State Highway 29 in Napa County was only open for one-way traffic, an intersection on Highway 121 in Sonoma county and the Highway 1, Stinson Beach turn off in Marin County were closed due to flooding.
And even those opting not to drive felt the storm's adverse effects – due to delayed public transportation.
Bay Area Rapid Transit lines ran over debris on the tracks between 24th-Street station and Daly City station, closing the service between the two stations and causing the trains to be evacuated, a BART spokesman said.
BART created a bus bridge for San Francisco International Airport commuters until it restored its up to 20-minute-delayed train services around 2 p.m., according to BART.
San Francisco Municipal Railway lines were having trouble along Market Street because weather conditions, causing rerouting and omitting services, according to a Muni spokesman. Market Street lines were restored by 3 p.m.
The Bay's ferries delayed or stopped service Friday as well. Alameda Harbor Bay Ferry, Alameda/Oakland Ferry, Golden Gate Ferry and the ferry to Alcatraz did not leave their docks this morning.
Alameda/Oakland Ferry was running again around 4 p.m. Alameda Harbor Bay Ferry will resume on Monday and it is uncertain whether Golden Gate Ferry and the ferry to Alcatraz have resumed services.
Blustery weather also caused delays and cancellations at all three major Bay Area airports. SFO is experiencing delays on all domestic flights, a duty commander said late Friday. Arrivals and departures are running between 2 and 3 hours behind. On the other hand, international flights have not been greatly affected.
SFO spokesman Mike McCarron said winds up to the low 50s have canceled about 40 outbound and inbound flights so far.
An Oakland International Airport representative said the weather has delayed around a dozen flights from 20 minutes up to 1.5 hours. At least one flight has been cancelled.
David Vossbrink, communications director for Mineta San Jose International Airport, reported that while a few flights have been delayed, the storm has not affected the airport very much.
"Its just very wet out here," Vossbrink said. "There have been a few cancellations today, but none of them are due strictly to the weather."
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