California atmospheric river: Millions remain under flood watch as more rain approaches


Another atmospheric river is headed for storm-hit California, where residents are still dealing with flooded roads, damaged bridges, overflowing rivers, flooded neighborhoods and a levee breach that forced hundreds to evacuate.

The new storm is expected to hit the state on Monday, bringing heavy rain, snow to the mountains and threatening more flooding in northern and central California as the first atmospheric river collapses, according to the National Weather Service. Atmospheric rivers consist of long, narrow bands of moisture that transport warm air and water vapor from the tropics.

About 15 million people remain under a flood watch in California and Nevada as the storm approaches early Sunday.

More flooding could create a dire situation in some neighborhoods, where torrential rains in recent days have turned roads into rivers and damaged roads, trapping people and prompting many rescues. At least two people died as a result of the storms, officials said.

Among the hardest-hit areas is Monterey County, where the swollen Pajaro River burst a dam around midnight Friday, sending water gushing uncontrollably into the nearby community of Pajaro and forcing residents to flee — the “worst-case scenario” for the community , Luis said. Alejo, chairman of the Monterey County Board of Supervisors.

Some people were unable to evacuate before floodwaters arrived, and crews were still performing rescues in high water Saturday, Cal Fire Capt. Curtis Rhodes told CNN.

Many residents of Pajaro are farm workers who may not only lose property but also be unable to live for some time if the continued flooding affects agriculture, Alejo told CNN.

“These are the people who can least afford this kind of hardship,” Alejo said.

As residents crowd into emergency shelters, efforts to stop flooding from the fault are complicated by the approach of the second atmospheric river.

“This weekend is a very short respite,” said David King with the National Weather Service. “The weather will change, it is expected on Monday night.”

While eyes were on the Pajaro River, the Salinas River to the south was also overflowing, prompting more evacuation orders in Monterey County. Rising river water had already flooded homes and businesses around the community of San Ardo.

Emergency crews have rescued more than 90 people in Monterey County, according to Sheriff Tina Nieto. “We even rescued a man who was floating in one of the areas in a tube with his pet on top of him,” he added.

To the north, as Friday’s heavy rains pounded Santa Cruz County, about 700 residents in Soquel were trapped after a pipe failure led to severe flooding and the collapse of one road connecting the community to the rest of the area, according to Steve Wiesner. assistant director of public works of the county. Residents will remain isolated until a new crossing is established — which could take days, Wisner said.

“We’re an island now,” resident Molly Watson told CNN.

Another hard-hit area was Tulare County, where evacuation orders were extended to include the community of Teviston as well as parts of Cutler and Exeter when the river rose, the county sheriff’s office said Friday night. Officials urged residents to stay away from waterways and avoid any unnecessary travel.

Video from Springville in Tulare County showed devastating damage after Friday’s severe flooding.

“It’s very heartbreaking,” Hatti Shepard told CNN. “Many hard-working people were displaced with the loss of homes and property.”

Recent atmospheric rivers – that can carry moisture thousands of miles like a fire hose – are the latest to lash the state after an onslaught of similar storms in December and January also led to deadly flooding.

However, the effects of today’s storms are compounded by the fact that heavy rains are now hitting areas that have already been buried by heavy snowfalls over the past two weeks. Melting snow will play a role in prolonging flooding in the coming days, forecasters said.

President Joe Biden approved the declaration of a state of emergency requested by Governor Gavin Newsom. The move frees up funds for the millions of residents affected by severe weather since the start of the year.

Meanwhile, Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo extended the state of emergency to include additional counties due to flooding associated with the same storm.

“As this severe weather continues to affect more residents in northern Nevada, I again urge all Nevadans to stay safe, travel with caution and follow all local guidelines. “State and federal partners will continue to monitor local damage and work quickly to assess necessary repairs in northern Nevada,” Lombardo said in a statement.

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