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Mudslides partially close I-80, US 50

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POSTED January 9, 2017 12:26 a.m.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Mudslides have partially closed two major trans-Sierra routes.

The California Highway Patrol’s Truckee office said all westbound lanes of Interstate 80 near Donner Lake Road in Donner Lake have been closed indefinitely because of a large mudslide Sunday evening. It was unclear when the highway will reopen as the clean-up will take hours.

The California Department of Transportation also said the westbound lanes of Highway 50 near Kyburz were blocked by a mudslide. 

There were mudslides and flooding throughout Northern California that led to road closures Sunday, especially in the North Bay, one of the areas hardest hit and where the Napa River jumped its banks.

Farther north, the U.S. 395 highway was temporarily closed in both directions in Mono County because of flooding.

Authorities are watching rising water levels of several rivers, including the Cosumnes, Truckee, Merced, American and Russian.

Forecasters say another massive winter storm will start pounding Northern California tonight.

All roads leading to Yosemite National Park’s valley floor remained closed amid fears that the Merced River could overflow its banks and cause major flooding.

“It’s kind of surreal how empty the park is. There’s nobody here,” said Gary Kazanjian, a freelance photographer who spent the night in Yosemite and drove out Sunday as part of a caravan of stragglers.

Relatively mild temperatures were driving up the snowline to above 9,000 feet throughout the Sierra Nevada, causing runoff in the lower elevations, where the ground is already saturated. Forecasters said Sunday it was tracking pretty much as they expected.

“For forecasters who’ve been here a decade or more, this is one of the most impressive atmospheric setups that we have seen in a long time for potential flooding in the region,” said Chris Smallcomb, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Reno. “If you had to write a textbook on how to get a flood in the region, you would use a scenario just like this.”

Toppled trees on Sunday crashed against cars and homes or blocked roads in the San Francisco Bay area, and officials rescued stranded motorists from cars stuck on flooded roads on Sunday. A giant tree fell across the southbound lanes of Interstate 230 in Hillsborough, injuring one driver who couldn’t brake in time and drove into the tree. A woman was killed Saturday by a falling tree while she took a walk on a San Francisco Bay Area golf course.

On Sunday, a homeless man was rescued after being pinned by a toppled tree in Golden Gate Park.   

The stormy weather comes as California enters its sixth year of drought. Each storm is welcomed, but officials say several more like this are needed to replenish depleted groundwater supplies.

The strong wet season began in October with more rain falling than in three decades, mostly in Northern California. Los Angeles is experiencing the wettest winter in six years, forecasters say.

Forecasters anticipate the storm surge stretching from Hawaii in the Pacific — called an atmospheric river — could dump up to 8 inches of rain from Sonoma to Monterey counties.

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