Mammoth snowstorm
A powerful storm packing heavy rain, snow and wind pounded parts of California and western Nevada on Wednesday, toppling trees, and causing power outages and mud flows in vast areas scarred by wildfires.

The onslaught was being fueled by a potent atmospheric river from the Pacific Ocean that punched into the state through the San Francisco Bay Area overnight, drifted down the coast past Santa Cruz and stalled over Big Sur before pivoting back northward.

Pacific Gas & Electric said overall, about 575,000 customers lost power Tuesday and Wednesday along the northern coast, in the San Francisco and Sacramento areas and elsewhere because of winds, rain and snow.

One gust hit 125 mph (201 kph) at Alpine Meadows near Lake Tahoe.

Mudslides near Salinas south of the Bay Area caused "mild to moderate" damage to about two dozen rural ranch homes beneath hillsides scorched by the River Fire last August, said Dorothy Priolo with the Monterey County Regional Fire Protection District.

One woman was treated for broken bones after mud went "completely through the house" in the early morning hours, Priolo said. Fifty horses were rescued.

"We are expecting there could be more earth movement here in the next couple of days," Priolo said.

Amy Lilly talks with neighbor Eric Rose as they look over her home damaged
© Rich Pedroncelli/AP
Amy Lilly talks with neighbor Eric Rose as they look over her home damaged by a tree limb that crashed into her house and into Rose's backyard during a storm in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, Jan. 27 2021. High-winds and rain pelted the region causing damage throughout the area.
Evacuation orders were issued in advance in Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties around an area scorched by wildfires ignited by lightning last August. The state also positioned teams with specialized rescue skills in five counties.

Santa Cruz County initially appeared to dodge trouble, with no debris flows reported overnight. But the weather service said the atmospheric river's afternoon pivot renewed risks of flash floods from burn scars in that region.

On the far north coast, three motorists stranded in snow late Tuesday were rescued by Humboldt County sheriff's deputies who made their way through several miles of treacherous conditions while clearing dozens of downed trees and powerlines. The motorists were uninjured when they were located about 3 a.m. Wednesday.

Rare snow was reported in Sonoma and Napa counties north of San Francisco at elevations as low as 1,300 feet (396 meters). Low-level snow also fell in the northern Sacramento Valley, closing Interstate 5 in Shasta and Siskiyou counties.

About 500 miles to the south, deteriorating conditions intermittently closed I-5 in Tejon Pass between Los Angeles and the southern San Joaquin Valley.

At Lake Tahoe, the National Weather Service issued a rare blizzard warning across a 170-mile (274-kilometer) stretch of the Sierra south to Mammoth Lakes, where more than 3 feet (0.91 meters) of snow already had fallen by Wednesday afternoon.