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Northern California slammed by third winter storm; fourth on the way

A new storm system dumps more rain on the already soaked region. NBC's Jay Gray reports.

Updated at 12:20 p.m. ET: SAN FRANCISCO -- Slammed by three powerful storms in five days, Northern California dodged a bullet this weekend as the fast-moving system that hit Sunday didn’t produce the extensive flooding that had been feared.

But the region faces a new threat Tuesday, with forecasters saying a new system could bring up to seven inches of rain in parts of Oregon and California.

Sunday’s storm was less devastating than forecast, but it still dumped as much as an inch of rain per hour, felled trees and toppled utility poles, knocking out power to tens of thousands of people.


Truckee River, near Lake Tahoe, and other areas expected to experience serious flooding were spared because colder temperatures turned heavy rains into a mix of rain and snow, NBC Bay Area reported.

Much of California was hammered with its third round of wicked winter weather in just five days, with flash flooding and power outages crippling several parts of the state. NBC's Miguel Almaguer reports.

“The snow is great,” The Weather Channel’s Chris Warren told NBC News. “It means two things: First, the rain is no longer melting the snow that is already on the ground, and the moisture that’s in the snow stays on the ground and does not flow into the river.”

"It (the storm) moved through a lit bit faster than it was looking like it would, so it didn't plant on top of us and keeping raining," said Austin Cross, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "The period of heavy rain didn't last as long."

TODAY's Al Roker reports on another West Coast storm, this one set to stay more to the north of California and hit the Pacific Northwest, bringing up to eight inches of heavy rain along the coast and 1-2 feet of snow in the mountains.

In Napa, where officials had handed out more than 8,000 sandbags and about 150 tons of sand before the storm hit, officials breathed a sigh of relief.

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"There were predictions of the river getting above flood stage, but that did not occur," Napa city spokesman Barry Martin said. "We've had some minor street flooding and some of the intersections were flooded."

Flood construction projects were credited with keeping the river within its banks through the city, while most of anticipated flooding, expected around 6 p.m. Sunday, was expected to hit a mostly agricultural area outside of the city, officials said.

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In Truckee, 30 miles west of Reno, city officials were focusing on snow removal Sunday afternoon instead of flood control after the town received 4 to 5 inches of snow in the morning, said Assistant City Manager Alex Terrazas.

"We continue to keep an eye on the river, but things are certainly better than they could have been," he said. "We'll transition back to flood management if we need to."

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Meanwhile, as Pacific Gas & Electric crews worked on restoring power. As of Sunday afternoon, about 57,000 people from Santa Cruz to Eureka, including about 13,000 people in the San Francisco Bay area, remained without electricity, officials said.

"It really did broadside California," PG&E spokesman Joe Molica said of the storms.

Wind gusts were blamed for knocking over a big rig truck as it drove over the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge at around 5 a.m. Sunday.

Tow crews had to wait for the winds to subside later in the morning before they could remove the truck, officials said.

NBC Bay Area reported that one wind gust was "clocked at 80 mph in the hills of Los Gatos."

Weather.com: Flood, wind, snow reports 

Also, train service on the Bay Area Rapid Transit system was disrupted for about an hour Sunday morning because of an electrical outage blamed on the weather.

Noah Berger / AP

A can makes it way through a flooded underpass in San Rafael, Calif., on Sunday after days of heavy rain drenched the region.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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