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February 9, 2014

Drought-rattled California welcomes weekend storm

Eds: Recasts, updates with overnight rain, snow totals.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Californians accustomed to complaining about the slightest change in the weather welcomed a robust weekend storm that soaked the northern half of the drought-stricken state Saturday even as rain and snow brought the threat of avalanches, flooding and rock slides.

The storm that moved in Friday, powered by a warm, moisture-packed system from the Pacific Ocean known as a Pineapple Express, had dropped more than 7 inches of rain on Marin County's Mt. Tamalpais, an average of 4 inches in Sonoma County and one to three inches in San Francisco, San Jose and other urban areas, National Weather Service hydrologist Mark Strudley said.

With areas north of San Francisco forecast to see another few inches by Sunday, the downpour was ample enough to flood roadways and prompt warnings that parched streams could be deluged to the point of overflowing, but by itself will not solve the state's drought worries, Strudley said.

"The yearly rainfall around here, depending on where you were, was less than 10 percent of normal," he said. "The additions from this last series of storms and the totals are taking a dent out of it, but it is not a significant dent."

Still, seeing the water levels in a local reservoir and his backyard pond creeping up and small streams flowing again cheered Willits City Councilman Bruce Barton. Willits, a city in the heart of redwood country that usually sees about 50 inches of rain a year and was expected to get about four inches over the weekend, is one of 17 rural communities that California's Department of Public Health recently described as dangerously low on water.

"It's guarded optimism. We are a long ways from where we need to be, but we have to start with some sort of a raindrop," Barton said.

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