Rain shuts Yosemite, threatens problems at tallest US dam

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A fierce Northern California storm today shut down Yosemite National Park, threatened mudslides in wildfire-ravaged wine country and could present the first test of a partially repaired offshoot of the nation's tallest dam that nearly collapsed last year.

Recent heavy rainfall has led to problems for a state recovering from devastating wildfires, forcing people to flee their homes repeatedly for fear of debris flows tearing down hillsides stripped bare by flames.

But the downpours also have provided relief as parts of California plunged back into drought less than a year after a historic dry stretch.

Rain was falling throughout much of Northern California on Friday, leading Yosemite National Park to ban all visitors as it expects flooding in its tourist-heavy valley. Visitors can no longer enter Yosemite Valley, and those already there will be asked to leave by 5 p.m.

The opener of the San Francisco Giants-Los Angeles Dodgers weekend series was rained out, the first at the Giants ballpark in 12 years.

A couple of hundred miles northwest in wine country scorched during October wildfires, the National Weather Service predicted 4 to 6 inches of rainfall through Sunday.

The city of Santa Rosa, one of the hardest-hit burn areas, brought in extra firefighters and emergency personnel, fire department spokesman Paul Lowenthal said.

It's not the amount of rainfall worrying city officials but the rate at which it falls, he said. Workers have been monitoring hundreds of storm drains, especially those protecting neighborhoods destroyed by fire.

"When we start talking about half an inch of rain or more an hour, that's where we're more susceptible to mudslides and debris flow in and around our burn zones," Lowenthal said.

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