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Storm brings record rainfall, gusts up to 199 mph and flooding to Northern California

Liam Dillon, Louis Sahagun and Joseph Serna, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

MODESTO, Calif. -- Northern California was battered by another atmospheric river that produced record rainfall and wind gusts that reached 199 mph.

The dramatic gusts were recorded high in the Sierra Nevada, where Alpine Meadows had the 199-mph gust, according to the National Weather Service. Biggs recorded 184 mph.

Several areas set new rainfall records for the day Monday including San Jose (1.87 inches), San Francisco International Airport (2.16 inches) and Sacramento (1.74 inches).

More rain is falling Tuesday, but officials said Monday was expected to be the strongest part of the storm. It produced some flooding -- but so far not the mass damage some had feared.

Water came gushing down the spillway at Don Pedro Dam in Stanislaus County on Monday afternoon, further proof -- if any were needed -- that this is a rainy season for the record books in much of California.

It was only the second time the spillway had been used, and the first time in 20 years, as officials sought to keep the Don Pedro Reservoir from overflowing.

Residents along the Tuolumne River were not forced to evacuate, but "we are strongly encouraging people to seek shelter and move to higher ground," Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson said at a news conference. "Our No. 1 priority is the safety and security of the people here in Stanislaus County."

The Don Pedro release came as much of the state's northern half was being hit with a colossal drenching -- expected to drop as much as 9 inches of rain in areas from Santa Cruz County along the coast to the Feather River Basin, far inland. People living along waterways braced for flash floods and evacuations.

It came on the heels of the crisis that developed just over a week ago at Oroville Dam, some 180 miles to the north. Both spillways were damaged, and fears of catastrophic flooding prompted the evacuation of more than 100,000 people.

Turlock Irrigation District officials said Monday that the structural integrity of the Don Pedro dam and spillway were "not in question," and that the amount of water being released would be far less than in 1997, when major flooding occurred.

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