Another Wintry Storm Blasts N. California : Weather: Frigid winds, hail and snow pummel beleaguered region. Major highways are closed and flooding continues near Clear Lake.

From Associated Press

It might as well be winter. Spring's latest storm whipped frigid winds across Northern California on Wednesday and brought blizzards to the Sierra Nevada.

Snowflakes were spotted at the state capital. Hail and winds brought down trees and fences and caused power outages.

Two windsurfers sailed the usually dry farm fields between Sacramento and Davis, where excess water was routed. Motorists reported that tumbleweeds, some the size of Christmas trees, were blown across Interstate 5 near Los Banos.

The new storm pummeled California's fruit crop and made it harder for farmers to recover from previous flood damage, now estimated at $422 million.

"We've changed gears from flooding to snow removal," said Chip Jackson, emergency services coordinator for Lassen County. Four highways into Susanville, the county seat, were closed because of two feet of new snow, he said. The National Guard armory was opened to stranded motorists.

Despite the rain and snow, the region's major rivers all were running below flood stage.

But the storms brought new grief to communities near Clear Lake, where more than 200 homes have been flooded for two weeks.

"It's been pouring for the last 12 hours," said Lydia Wells, spokeswoman for the Lake County Office of Emergency Services. The lake is 1 1/2 feet above flood stage, and has inundated a trailer park and flooded city streets.

More than four feet of snow has fallen on the Sierra since Monday. An additional two feet was expected from the latest storm, which forced the closure of Interstate 80 from Auburn to the Nevada border, the California Highway Patrol said.

"It looks like a solid sheet of water falling out of the sky," said Carmel Cook, a CHP employee at the Newcastle station, 15 miles west of Applegate on Interstate 80, where scores of cars were being turned around by CHP officers.

Winds up to 55 m.p.h. and intense rain bursts swept through the San Francisco Bay Area, causing airport delays, slowing commuters and triggering power outages.

Heavy rains were expected to continue through Thursday morning.

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