US & Canada

Storm pounds northern California

Aidan Perez, left, 12, and Christopher Dow, right, 11, use a shopping cart to get around the flooded parking lot of a shopping center Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014, in Healdsburg, California 11December 2014 Image copyright AP
Image caption Streets were heavily flooded in the town of Healdsburg, California

More than 220,000 people are without power after heavy rains and high winds slammed northern California.

The storm brought rainfall of more than an inch an hour in San Francisco and winds gusts of 140mph (225km/h) in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Flooding has already closed two major motorways in the area, delayed public transport, cancelled 240 flights and shut ferry services.

The rain is much needed in the drought-hit state but mudslides are a concern.

Power cuts were widespread, from the suburban area south of San Francisco to Humboldt, near the Oregon border.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Golden Gate Bridge is designed to sway safely in high winds but officials were worried about accidents
Image copyright AP
Image caption A vineyard along a major motorway floods

"It's a two-pronged punch - it's wind and rain," National Weather Service forecaster Diana Henderson said. "Once the ground gets saturated and the winds are howling, there's a bigger chance of trees going down on power lines."

There were multiple vehicle accidents but no serious injuries.

Rain and floods also led to rare weather-related school closures for students in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and Santa Cruz County.

Some 240 flights at San Francisco's airport were cancelled and delays averaged two hours, said a spokesman.

In Santa Cruz, a young child was trapped after an 80ft (24m) tree fell on his arm and shoulder,

Rescuers with chain saws cut it apart and the student was taken to hospital in a good condition.

In the small town of Healdsburg, cars were stalled in heavily flooded streets.

Image copyright AP
Image copyright AP
Image caption Students had a rare weather-related school cancellation

Grocery store employee Laura Cobar said the water was rising and she feared it might enter the shop.

"We got kids canoeing in our parking lot, and there's water up to our doors" she said.

But surfers welcomed forecast of waves as high as 15ft and unseasonably warm temperatures near San Francisco Bay and ski resorts in the northern Sierra Nevada were hoping for more than two feet of snow.

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