California gets storm reprieve, more rain coming
By TERRY COLLINS
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- After a brief reprieve across the northern half of the state on Monday, wet weather was expected to make another appearance across most of California on Christmas Day.
Flooding and snarled holiday traffic were also expected in Southern California.
The wet conditions led to the early-morning rescue Monday of a man who was clinging for hours to a clump of bushes in the fast-moving Los Angeles River. Firefighters spent nearly two hours using various measures to rescue the man as an inflatable boat was able to reach him in the waters estimated to be traveling at 30 mph.
He was taken to a hospital for evaluation.
The rain also made it difficult for morning commuters. A big rig crashed in Sylmar shortly before 1:30 a.m., causing a fuel leak and forcing the closure of Interstate 5 for more than three hours.
Meanwhile, the severe storms that saturated Northern California over the weekend have helped give a much-needed boost to regional reservoirs and created ideal skiing conditions along the Sierra.
The downpours have kept the grass green for cattle feeds and replenished reservoirs, San Joaquin County Agriculture Commissioner Scott Hudson said Monday.
"It's much better than what it was at this time last year when we were fairly dry," Hudson said. "This year's rain has come in intervals where it's keeping us saturated, but not flooded."
Hudson said the rain has not only help grow grass for cows to feed on, but also helped build the water supply.
"That is a welcome sight for us," Hudson said. "As far as the reserves, what we get now will help our crops grow next summer."
And the moisture has allowed ski resorts to enjoy fresh snow on the slopes. Squaw Valley USA near Lake Tahoe reported receiving more than 3 feet of new snow between Friday and early Sunday morning.
Resort spokeswoman Amelia Richmond said the new snow is helping assure Squaw Valley reaches its second largest Christmas Day snowpack since 1970.
"The conditions are phenomenal especially for those who like fresh snow," Richmond said Sunday. "It's an incredible setup (for the holidays), and we're looking forward to a very white Christmas."
The resort has received some 200 inches of snow so far this season, compared with nearly 250 inches of snow on Christmas Day, 2010, when the region was en route to a snowpack twice the normal average. Squaw Valley averages 450 inches of snow a year.
As the entire state is expecting more rain and snow, a winter weather advisory has been issued for the northern Sierra for Christmas Day, the National Weather Service said.
In Northern California, where the ground is already saturated from the previous rain, flood watches remained for Sonoma and Napa Counties, particularly for small creeks, streams and roads, Mark Strudley, a Weather Service hydrologist said Monday.
And a flood watch for the Russian River at Guerneville in Sonoma County also remained in effect Monday, Strudley said.
Associated Press writers John S. Marshall in San Francisco and Martin Griffith in Reno, Nev., contributed to this report.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.