Lightning flashed across Bay Area skies Monday, knocking down trees, striking an airplane and blowing out house windows as a band of heavy rain roared onshore.
The powerful storm brought thunderstorms to the North Bay in the morning, with thunder and lightning bolts lighting up downtown San Francisco and several spots in the East Bay shortly after noon.
Small hail also fell in some places along with the heavy rain, the National Weather Service said.
The soggy onslaught is the beginning of what is expected to be several days of off-and-on rain, weather forecasters said.
“Things could get a little messy,” said Bob Benjamin, a forecaster with the weather service.
The North Bay took the brunt of the punishment as the storm, which had been relatively scattered, organized itself into a dense band of heavy showers to bring in up to an inch of rain in some areas, meteorologists said. Some locations in northern Sonoma County reported almost a half inch of rain per hour, Benjamin said.
Farther south, two homes in Sausalito were damaged after lightning struck a redwood tree on the 100 block of Spencer Avenue. No injuries were reported, but windows in both houses were blown out and a deck, which was in contact with the tree, sustained considerable damage, said Jim Irving, chief of the Southern Marin Fire Protection District.
In Berkeley, another tree fell victim to a lightning strike around 2 p.m. Officials said the almost 70-foot-high tree was reduced to a 20-foot stump after being struck. Flying chunks of wood broke out windows and skylights in nearby homes, but no injuries were reported, said Deputy Fire Chief Avery Webb.
Lightning also struck a Horizon Air plane as it approached Oakland International Airport just after noon, said Bobbie Egan, a spokeswoman for the airline’s parent company, Alaska Airlines. None of the passengers was injured – in fact, they had to be informed by the crew that the light turbulence they felt was lightning – but the airline had to cancel the plane’s outbound flight for maintenance inspections.
The storm is moving south from Alaska by way of the Pacific Northwest, and the low temperatures accompanying it are likely to drop snow levels to 3,000 feet, bringing the possibility of a dusting on some of the Bay Area’s higher peaks. Temperatures will probably stay in the upper 40s during the day, Benjamin said.
The weather system is expected to stick around through Tuesday, with showers tapering off into Wednesday morning. Lower elevations are expected to get less than an inch of rain, with the wettest spots getting up to an inch, said Steve Anderson of the National Weather Service.
Most of the Bay Area can expect up to half an inch total by Wednesday, he said.
Once the storm leaves, the Bay Area should see a brief dry spell before another weak system brings a chance of rain Thursday. After that, skies are expected to clear with a warmer weekend.