Rare September rainstorm batters the Bay Area after grueling heat and drought

Rain battered the Bay Area on Sunday, moving from the northern valleys toward the south, upending street events in San Francisco and triggering fears of blackouts or toppled trees.

For residents recovering from a record heat wave, in a season typically marked by grueling wildfires and protracted drought, the rain brought surprise and relief, along with a fair share of panic.

In downtown San Francisco, the showers came in bursts, picking up at about 9:45 am and spraying down hard enough, within a few minutes, to rattle the tin chimney caps of apartment buildings. By 10 am the dounpour had washed leaves down the drains and was threatening to clog them up and start building lakes in intersections.

A storm that generated weeks of tantalizing forecasts had finally arrived.

Then, by 10:15 am, it was over, another illustration of California’s extreme vicissitudes in weather, where atmospheric rivers follow long parched periods. At 11 am the wind began moaning and the rain started again. Organizers canceled the annual LeatherWalk in SoMa, the Stern Grove Festival and Sunday Streets in the Western Addition.

Inclement weather delayed Flower Piano, a popular performance festival in Golden Gate Park, by one hour, though the even proceeded at 11 am with tents covering all twelve pianos.

“The crowd is less than if it were a sunny day but there is a phenomenal dedicated hearty group of pianists and listeners who are here and outfitted in their finest rain jackets, rain boots and umbrellas,” said Brendan Lange, spokesperson for Flower Piano.

Yasmin Bahl started her regular run up the Lyon Street steps in a pouring rain at Green Street. By the time she reached the top at Broadway, the rain had cleared enough to see a lone sailboat on the slate gray bay.

“We blinked. It’s over,” she said of the storm, before she started on her second of 10 sets on the steps.

Gentle rains that moistened pavement at about 8 am in the East Bay turned fierce in the afternoon, when the rain came pouring down in sheets. By then the storm had doused much of the North Bay, where forecasters predict the mountains may see up to 3.5 inches of rainfall.

Powerful winds blasting southward along the coast prompted the National Weather Service to issue an advisory for Sunday and warn of likely outages.

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