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Much needed rain, snow falls
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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Drought-stricken California got some help Thursday from the weather — a prelude to a bigger storm for parts of the state over the weekend that could dump as much as 2 feet of snow in the northern Sierra and 6 inches of rain on Bay Area mountains.

While the overdue wet weather is welcome and may be a sign of things to come, forecasters say California needs much more rain and snow to make up for one of the driest rainy seasons so far.

“I won’t say the storm door is open, but maybe we’ll get into more of a routine storm pattern now,” said Bob Benjamin, a National Weather Service forecaster in Monterey.

Rain in the San Francisco Bay Area on Thursday contributed to numerous crashes. In one crash, a big rig went over the median on Interstate 80 in San Pablo, but the driver was not hurt.

San Francisco had received a little less than three-quarters of an inch of rain by late Thursday afternoon and was not expected to get much more before the storm moved out, Benjamin said.

Also, Thursday’s steady rain has already cancelled the monthly First Friday event in downtown Oakland, city officials announced.

In the northern Sierra, the National Weather Service was forecasting as much as 6 inches of snow at higher elevations.

Southern California, meanwhile, had steady rains in some areas and scattered showers in others, though totals there were expected to be small.

The rainfall prompted state fire officials to lift a ban on outdoor open burning in parts of northern and central California.

But Thursday’s rainfall was just the beginning — at least in Northern California. Forecasters say a stronger system moving in Friday will dump as much as 6 inches of rain on Bay Area mountains and 2 feet of snow in the Sierra over the weekend.

San Francisco and Sacramento could get a couple of more inches of rain, the National Weather Service said.

Still, the state would remain well off its normal rainfall totals for the year. February is normally the wettest month, as recorded in downtown Los Angeles, with average rainfall of 3.8 inches. The region, however, has yet to see a generalized rainstorm this month.

Sacramento normally experiences more than 12 inches of rainfall between July and now, George Cline, another National Weather Service forecaster, said. Even if the weekend storm dumps as much rain as expected, Sacramento will only be at half its normal levels.