Rain,Snow Brings Winter Back to Calif.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A storm packing rain and high winds downed power lines, toppled trees and delayed flights in parts of California, bringing back winter weather after several days of record-heat in the West.

Thousands of customers reported power outages in northern and central California Wednesday night after strong winds reached 50 mph in some hilly areas. Officials also reported a surge in crashes as commuters traveled on soaked, slippery highways.

At least 5,000 customers were in the dark in the San Francisco Bay Area and about 2,500 people in the Fresno area, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. said.

The California Highway Patrol reported it has responded to several rain-related crashes on Bay Area roads.

There were numerous reports of vehicles that had spun out, hydroplaned, collided with other vehicles, or gone down off the road, along with one report of a tree down on State Route 130 at Quimby Road in Santa Clara County, KTVU-TV reported.

Most places are expected to see a quarter-inch to a half-inch of rain as the cold front moves through the area overnight into Thursday. It is expected to drop between 1 and 2 feet of new snow in California's highest peaks.

Farther north, a mixture of rain and snow is expected to hit the Sierra Nevada chain with the heaviest snows falling overnight.

The National Weather Service expects snow to fall at a rate of 2 to 3 inches an hour.

Combine that with gusting winds, and drivers may face low visibility and white-out conditions Wednesday night, weather service meteorologist Edan Weishahn said.

The system moving into California from the north should be in and out quickly, leaving the forecast for Thursday cold and breezy with leftover snowfall and bringing back warm weather and sunny skies by the weekend.

The welcomed rain follows several days of record heat.

The weather service said the high in downtown Los Angeles hit 90 degrees on Tuesday, breaking the old record of 88 for the day that was set in 1977. San Diego's high of 89 was eight degrees above the 1981 record. The airport in San Francisco recorded 72, beating a 2007 high.

Phoenix had its earliest 90-degree day on record Wednesday.

The National Weather Service originally forecast a high of 91 degrees, which would break a nearly 30-year-old record for the city. By early afternoon, the temperature stood at 83, and meteorologists began backing off the 90-degree prediction.

But the thermometer at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport reached 89 degrees around 3:40 p.m. and hit 90 about a half-hour later.

The records go back to 1895, and the earliest 90-degree days in Phoenix's history were on Feb. 24, 1904 and again on Feb. 24, 1986, meteorologists said. The previous record high for Feb. 17 was 88 degrees, set in 2014.

The normal temperature for this time of year in Phoenix is 71 degrees. Last year, the first 90-degree day didn't occur until March 16.

(KA)