t1storm.jpgA brief but powerful storm is expected to hit the Bay Area this afternoon, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service said.

The storm, expected to arrive by around 4 p.m., could drop as much as 4 inches of rain in some North Bay locations and bring wind gusts as strong as 55 mph in some coastal areas and at higher elevations, meteorologist Austin Cross said.

Because of the heavy rain, which could come down at a rate of an inch per hour, the weather service has issued a flash flood watch for Marin, Sonoma and Napa counties, Cross said.

“The North Bay will get the brunt of the rain,” he said, but “the heaviest rains will only last a matter of hours.”

The flash flood watch, which begins at 6 p.m., is expected to remain in effect until 4 a.m. Wednesday, when the most severe part of the storm will have moved out of the region, Cross said.

Southerly winds of 20 to 30 mph are expected tonight, with gusts of 45 to 55 mph possible on the coast and at elevations above 1,000 feet. The strongest winds are expected to subside by early Wednesday, according to the weather service.

To help residents prevent flood damage, the city of Napa this morning opened a self-service sandbag station.

People seeking sandbags should bring their own shovels and gloves and be prepared to fill and transport the bags.

The sandbag station is located in the parking lot on the west side of Freeway Drive at First Street, city officials said.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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