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Rain system expected to bring relief to Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Northern California on Wednesday was in the midst of what forecasters were predicting would be the longest stretch of wet weather yet this year.

Rain, heavy at times, was falling in the San Francisco Bay Area in the morning. The National Weather Service was forecasting light to moderate rain for morning commuters in the Sacramento Valley and northern San Joaquin Valley as well.

In the Sierra, a winter storm warning was in effect for elevations above 5,000 feet. An additional 8 to 16 inches of snow was forecast through 11 a.m. on Thursday.

Parts of the San Francisco Bay Area _ particularly the North Bay _ could get more than an inch of rain through Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

The precipitation, including small showers, possible thunderstorms and small hail in some areas, was likely to continue through the weekend, with a brief drying trend expected on Thursday and Friday before rain chances increase again.

“For the next several days, be prepared to break out the umbrella,” weather service forecaster Bob Benjamin told the San Francisco Chronicle. “It may not be needed all the time, but you're likely to be in a situation where you wish you had it.”

Another round of heavy rain was expected Saturday morning with lingering showers Sunday and Monday, bringing another inch of rain to some areas of the North Bay and a third to two-thirds of an inch in San Francisco. Yet another wet system was forecast to move through on Monday, the weather service said.

The precipitation was a welcome break from a drought that has gripped the entire state, though it wasn't expected to make a significant dent in the drought. San Francisco has received just 42 percent of its average rainfall since last summer.

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