California atmospheric river: California officials step up preparations as powerful storm threatens heavy rains and flooding approaches millions


Millions across central and northern California are bracing for a worrisome storm that begins Thursday, with heavy rain threatening to cause widespread flooding in areas already mired in the dangerous aftermath of days of snowfall.

More than 17 million people are watching for flooding in California and parts of Nevada, with much of the Golden State facing a particularly significant risk of excessive rainfall that could inundate neighborhoods — flooding that could put some of the same areas already devastated by severe flooding earlier this year.

“An atmospheric river will bring abnormal moisture to California Thursday and Friday. The combination of heavy rainfall and rapid snowmelt below 5,000 feet will lead to flooding. The Weather Forecast Center saidadding that “a lot” of flooding is possible for millions.

The most vulnerable areas to flooding from rain and snowmelt are creeks and streams in the Sierra Nevada foothills, the forecast center said. “This will lead to difficult travel and combined with an already deep snow pack, may lead to increasing impacts from the depth and weight of the snow,” the forecast center added.

Northern California is expected to see rain and snow beginning late Thursday morning, with precipitation steadily intensifying across the central and northern parts of the state through early Friday morning.

The grim forecast prompted officials across Central and Northern California to urge residents to prepare, with residents in one area advised to stock up on essential supplies for two weeks, while others were asked to use sandbags to protect property them and clean up their waterways to reduce any flooding. effects. In addition, 34 of California’s 58 counties are under a state of emergency issued by the governor’s office due to past storms and this week’s severe weather.

Here’s what else the storm might bring:

• Heavy rains: Most urban areas could see between 1.5 and 3 inches of total rainfall, according to the National Weather Service in the San Francisco Bay Area. The threat increases for coastal ranges and hills inland, where between 3 and 6 inches of rain are expected, the weather service added. The Santa Cruz Mountains may see up to 8 inches of rain, while local areas of higher terrain may collect up to 10 inches of rain over an extended period of time.

• Strong winds: More than 15 million people in northern and central California, northern Nevada and southwestern Idaho are under a high wind warning. Wind gusts could reach up to 55 mph at lower elevations and up to 70 mph on peaks and mountains. Strong winds could knock down power lines and trees, which would come amid thousands of existing power outages from previous storms whose heavy snow wreaked havoc especially in higher elevation areas.

• More heavy snowfall: Parts of the Sierra Nevada mountain range above 8,000 feet could see snow accumulation up to 8 feet. Also, parts of higher elevations in southern Oregon and the Rockies in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming could see up to 2 feet of snow between Thursday and Friday.

Many of the areas bracing for Thursday’s storm haven’t had a chance to recover from multiple consecutive rounds of heavy snow that buried some neighborhoods and made roads impassable for days as residents ran out of essential supplies. In hard-hit San Bernardino County, one of the recent storms claimed the life of a resident in a car crash, the county sheriff’s department told CNN on Wednesday.

The impending powerful storm has some local officials on alert days before its expected landfall as a powerful atmospheric river, which consists of long, narrow bands of moisture in the atmosphere that transport warm air and water vapor from the tropics.

As the storm hits central California, some urban flooding, ponding, and flooding from smaller creeks and streams is possible. Eventually, more roads are expected to flood as major rivers rise, according to meteorologist Katrina Hunt at the National Weather Service office in Sacramento.

Officials in San Francisco urged small businesses to clear storm drains, stock up, use sandbags and ensure equipment is stored properly, according to a news release. Officials also suggested that employers should consider tailoring their employee safety plan.

Meanwhile, crews in Merced worked to clear storm drains and shore up creek banks ahead of the storm, city officials said in a statement, noting that flooding from the deadly storm surges that hit much of of the state in January have made the city’s water unsafe.

“The city urges all residents to avoid these waterways and hiking trails,” officials said in the statement. “Due to soil saturation and erosion from previous storms, expect to see more debris in creek flows.

Further west on the coast, five Monterey County parks will be closed Thursday and Friday due to the threat of the storm, the officials said in a Wednesday tweet.

In addition, officials advised residents in the Big Sur area of ​​Monterey County to ensure they have enough food and other essentials for at least two weeks. The Big Sur region, a roughly 90-mile stretch of California’s central coast, is one of the region’s famous tourist attractions with rugged cliffs, mountains and hidden beaches along the Pacific Coast Highway.

In Kern County, where Bakersfield is located, firefighters urged residents to create emergency kits and know escape routes and safe areas to seek shelter if needed. Officials also encouraged the use of sandbags to protect property.

And in San Luis Obispo, city officials said residents should stay up-to-date on flood insurance policies and be prepared to both protect their homes and potential evacuations.

In Sacramento, city officials said they plan to open overnight warming centers starting Friday in preparation for expected heavy rains and cold temperatures.

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