Chilly storm moves through California

4:06 PM, Apr 13, 2012   |    comments
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LOS ANGELES - A powerful spring storm that zapped an airliner with lighting in San Francisco moved across California on Friday, threatening the state with thundershowers, fierce winds and blinding snow flurries in the mountains.

Drivers making practice runs zipped around a wet track as the three-day Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach began. That didn't bother IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe. "I love driving in the rain," he said. "Growing up karting in Canada, the beginning and end of every one of my seasons was a lot of rain. ... It's a completely different challenge. The limits are so much lower, but the penalties of going beyond those limits are so much higher."

Driving a race car full-out on a slick track requires being much gentler with the brakes and throttle. "It's like driving on egg shells the entire time," Hinchcliffe said. The Pasadena Symphony postponed an outdoor concert by two of its musicians because of weather. In Riverside County, blustery weather could chill Saturday's opening of the outdoor Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, but only a trace of rain threatened the annual desert event that draws thousands of fans.

Bands of thunderstorms rolled through the northern and central areas of the state Friday morning, but the weather was expected to clear in the afternoon as the front headed south and east, the National Weather Service said. The storm began drenching the San Francisco Bay area Thursday night, knocking out power and producing 750 lightning strikes through early Friday morning.

A bolt hit the tower of the new Bay Bridge, the San Francisco Chronicle reported, and struck a United Airlines flight that had left San Francisco for London. The plane, which was carrying about 200 passengers, returned safely. New rainfall records were set in several northern and central cities.

Southward, the storm could bring an inch or two of rain in most areas, but also winds gusting to 55 mph, gale-force winds over southern coastal waters and up to 14 inches of snow in southern mountains. The snow could fall at elevations as low as 3,500 feet and bring dangerous road conditions to several mountain highways, the weather service warned.

A high-pressure ridge will build over the state beginning Sunday, which should make for dry and warming conditions through the early part of the week, the weather service said.

The Associated Press

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