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During a historic drought, storm batters California

Northern California is being hit with a massive storm that’s pounding the state with rain, snow and strong winds.

The National Weather Service considers it the strongest storm the state has seen in five years and expects it to dump as much as 8 inches of rain over a 24-hour period. Since the storm began last night, more than 90,000 San Franciscans have already lost power.

Travel by train, ferry and air has been delayed across the San Francisco Bay Area. The power outage caused local public transportation systems, Muni and BART, to close two area stations, including one due to flooding. The FAA has issued a weather update saying that flights at San Francisco International Airport are arriving late by an average of three hours and 40 minutes.

In a very rare occurrence, public and private schools have closed in San Francisco, Oakland and nearly all of Marin County.

Flash flood warnings have been issued all over the Bay Area, in Sonoma, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Napa, Marin, Contra Costa, Alameda, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties. Many are worried about mud and debris slides since this storm arrives right on the heels of a year of intense drought and wildfires.

“Given the long-term drought and short–term saturated ground, many trees will lose the battle to the wind on Thursday,” said news station KPIX 5 meteorologist Paul Deanno.

Over the past three years California has been in the midst of a record-shattering drought that caused Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency in January. In September, he signed legislation to strengthen local management of groundwater basins across the state, in an effort to boost urban water conservation.

The heavy rains are being produced by a tropical system called the “Pineapple Express,” which delivers long, narrow gusts of warm moisture from Hawaii to the West Coast. It is an example of an atmospheric river that pipes concentrated water vapor from the tropics towards the western U.S.

The U.S. Coast Guard has issued warnings to surfers and those who live near water as waves are swelling to 15 feet high. In the Sierra Nevada Mountains, winds are gusting up to 140 miles per hour, and as much as 4 feet of snow is expected.

On Twitter, the hashtags #BayAreaStorm and #Stormaggedon are trending.

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