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Storm pounds parts of Northern California; officials brace for floods

December 2, 2012 | 11:14 am

The last in a series of storms pummeled pockets of Northern California on Sunday, sending officials scrambling with sandbags as they braced for at least three rivers to flood their banks.

Forecasters said Sunday that they have identified the culprit -- the reason that these routine early-winter storms have turned into such a potent flooding threat.

The storms have all passed over an unusual band of tropical moisture hovering above the Pacific Ocean. That has warmed them to the point that they are delivering far more rain than snow -- nine inches east of Sacramento; 12 inches in Paradise.

"If this was a more typical cool event, a lot of that would have been snow and wouldn't have run off into the rivers," said Eric Kurth, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Sacramento.

The third in a string of storms that began to hammer the region on Wednesday moved through Sunday morning.

"We're seeing some of the most intense rain we've seen," Kurth said.

The storm system was expected to finish moving through the area by Sunday afternoon. Then the waiting game begins, as officials brace for flooding.

The Napa, Russian and Truckee rivers were all expected to flood.

The rivers were expected to crest over their banks Sunday or Monday near St. Helena, Napa and Guerneville. Flooding of the Truckee River could be most severe, officials said.

According to the Truckee Police Department, the river reaches its flood point near the city of Truckee at 4 1/2 feet. By late Sunday morning, the river was expected to rise to more than 7 1/2 feet.

A state of emergency was also declared in the bordering Nevada counties of Reno, Sparks and Washoe, where flooding was also expected.

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-- Scott Gold

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