Bay Area reservoirs are filling fast, soaking up another day of downpours on Christmas in what's becoming a busy start to the rainy season.
So far, the region's rainfall has hit 150 percent of normal -- still early in the season that stretches to the end of June, but a far cry from last year, when the region received about half the rainfall it normally gets.
In the South Bay, the Almaden, Uvas and Vasona reservoirs were at or near capacity Tuesday evening, with six others more than half full. And more rain is expected this weekend. In less than three days, Santa Clara County reservoirs have jumped from 43 percent full to 52 percent of capacity.
Meanwhile, as several more feet of snow piled up in the Sierra, a ski patroller injured in a Christmas Eve avalanche became the second person in as many days to die from avalanches in the area.
The National Weather Service was forecasting a half-inch to three-quarters of an inch of rainfall for most of the Bay Area, with the precipitation starting on Tuesday night and expected to continue into the wee hours of Wednesday morning. Thunderstorms and hail were also expected as emergency crews prepared for flooding, fallen trees and downed power lines.
The rain culminated a dreary Christmas Day -- by California standards, at least -- as temperatures only reached highs of 53 degrees in San Jose, 50 degrees in Oakland and 48 degrees in San Francisco, with lows in the high 30s.
It comes after storms over the previous few days dropped buckets of water on the Bay Area, with the San Francisquito Creek overflowing its banks in East Palo Alto. A respite was granted on Christmas Eve through the afternoon of Christmas Day, however, with just .03 of an inch of rain falling in San Jose in a 24-hour period, 0.15 of an inch in Oakland and one-third of an inch in San Francisco.
Forecaster Diana Henderson of the weather service said that after a two-day dry spell starting Wednesday, another storm will move in and dump water over the region on Friday night and into Saturday.
"It's going to be wet," Henderson said.
As it has been.
California, largely dependent on snowpack for water, saw more than 5 feet of snowfall in the Sierra during the four days leading up to Christmas Eve, with another foot or two of snow on Tuesday and Wednesday, said Scott McGuire, a weather service forecaster in Reno.
On Tuesday, authorities said 53-year-old Bill Foster died following an avalanche the day before at Alpine Meadows in Placer County.
Described by the resort as one of their "very best and most experienced professional ski patrollers," Foster was part of a team conducting routine safety checks in an area of Alpine Meadows closed to the public Monday morning. A ski patrol member set an explosive charge in the area, triggering an avalanche that buried Foster for eight minutes.
It followed an avalanche at nearby Donner Ski Ranch on Monday, when snowboarder Steven Mark Anderson, 49, of Truckee, died after being buried under two or three feet of snow.
Winds swirled up to 40 mph in lower elevations and at 80 mph at the Sierra crest on Tuesday. Chain controls were in effect in the mountains, and reports of multiple accidents had snarled Christmas Day travel.
"We've had some people saying there is quite a backup up there," McGuire said. It's "pretty dangerous up there."
Contact Mike Rosenberg at 408-920-5705. Follow him at twitter.com/RosenbergMerc.
Stevens Creek: 85% of capacity (full capacity is 3,138 acre feet)
Almaden: 96% (1,586)
Calero: 46% (9,934)
Guadalupe: 57% (3,415)
Lexington: 60% (19,044)
Vasona: 101% (495)
Coyote: 59% (23,244)
Anderson: 41% (90,373)
Chesbro: 58% (7,945)
Uvas: 98% (9,835)
Total: 52% (169,009)