California atmospheric river: Residents urged to evacuate homes as dangerous rains heighten flood risk in already affected areas


Officials in California have issued evacuation warnings for areas of several counties amid strong storms that could bring heavy rain and widespread flooding to central and northern parts of the state on Friday.

The most dangerous amount of rain could affect nearly 70,000 people along California’s central coast, which stretches from Salinas south to San Luis Obispo and includes parts of Ventura and Monterey counties, according to the Weather Prediction Center, which issued level 4 of 4 heavy rainfall warning in the area.

“Multiple rounds of precipitation in addition to snowmelt will result in the potential for significant rise along streams and rivers, with widespread impact flooding possible through early next week,” National Water Center he said Thursday.

Creeks and streams in the Sierra Nevada foothills remain the most vulnerable areas to flooding from rain and snowmelt, the Weather Prediction Center said.

About 17 million people are under a flood watch in California and parts of Nevada as of late Thursday. Heavy rainfall had already begun on Thursday, with the worst rainfall and most significant impacts expected to continue into Friday. Hourly rainfall will steadily increase in intensity across California Thursday night into Friday morning, possibly reaching 1 inch per hour.

The threat prompted local officials to issue evacuation warnings and orders for some areas in the storm’s most dangerous path, as well as remind residents to prepare for another bout of severe weather — all while much of California remains in recovery mode from earlier heavy snowfalls and deadly floods in January. In addition, California transportation officials partially closed Interstate 5 and Highway 1, two major state roads.

In the community of Felton in Santa Cruz County, resident Tom Fredericks lamented the weariness of the unrelenting string of severe storms since the beginning of the year.

“We’ve been working every week, every week when we can since then,” Fredericks told CNN affiliate KGO. “It’s just starting to feel like it was before the storms. So that’s kind of daunting to deal with again.”

In nearby Monterey County, nearly 40,000 homes and businesses — about 20 percent of monitored customers — were without power as of Thursday night, according to

In San Luis Obispo County, officials issued an evacuation order starting Thursday night for residents south of the Arroyo Grande Creek Levee, urging them to seek higher ground for safety. An American Red Cross pet-friendly shelter in the county is available to residents. Meanwhile, an evacuation warning remains in place north of the Arroyo Grande Creek Levee and near Oceano Lagoon.

Evacuation warnings apply here:

  • Santa Cruz County: About 1,200 homes are affected by the evacuation warning in low-lying areas in Felton Grove, Paradise Park, Soquel Village and Rio Del Mar Flats as well as areas along Corralitos Creek, including the College-Lake-Holohan area, according to with county officials .
  • Tulare County: Areas along the Kings River from the Fresno County line to the Kings County line should plan to evacuate, according to a statement from the county sheriff’s office. “Residents should prepare now, especially in areas at risk of being cut off by snow or road/bridge closures,” the sheriff’s office said. “Store several days worth of food, water, medicine and other necessary supplies.”
  • Mariposa County: Greeley Hill, El Portal, Bear Creek Cabins, Oak Fire, Creekside Apartments, Hornitos and La Grange are under evacuation warnings, the county sheriff’s office said. “There is a potential threat to life and/or property. Rescue or rescue assistance may take longer than normal and you may need to shelter in place for an extended period of time,” officials said.
  • Merced County: Residents of Planada and Le Grand should prepare for possible evacuations and gather important documents, medications, appliances and pets, the sheriff’s office said on Facebook. Shelters are available in Merced and Atwater, the post said.
  • Fresno County: Residents in the eastern parts of the county should start packing up and be prepared for possible evacuation orders, the sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post. “The first of a series of powerful storms has now moved into our area. Several inches of rain are expected throughout the weekend. This rain, combined with melting snow, will strain lakes, rivers and streams,” the post noted.

As of late Thursday, 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 threat. The state also activated the flood operations center on Thursday morning.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office also asked the White House to approve a Presidential Emergency Declaration to support state and local responses to the severe weather that has persisted since last month.

“These storms have already caused significant damage in California from significant rainfall, snowfall, and river and urban flooding. The incoming atmospheric river system is expected to bring heavier rainfall, creating greater impacts and increasing the complexity of response and recovery in affected counties still responding to the effects of the December 2022-January 2023 winter storm,” the governor’s request states.

If approved, the emergency declaration would allow affected counties to have immediate access to federal aid to help protect public safety and property, the governor’s office said. The request for funds will be for generators, road clearing equipment and possible housing and mass care assistance.

Friday’s fallout comes as millions in the storm’s path have had no time to bounce back from multiple rounds of recent heavy snow that buried some neighborhoods and roads and left many stranded as vital supplies ran out.

From late December to January, many areas across the state were inundated by torrential rains from atmospheric rivers that lasted for days on end. The rains caused deadly flooding, mudslides and damage to critical infrastructure that has yet to be repaired in some places, raising the potential risk associated with this week’s storm.

This week’s atmospheric rivers — which are long, narrow bands of moisture in the atmosphere that carry warm air and water vapor from the tropics — could potentially be even more threatening because of their warmth, forecasters said.

“The unusually warm and humid conditions prevailing are expected to cause rapid snowmelt. Combine this snowmelt with up to 10 inches of rain in a 24-hour period (Thursday afternoon through Friday evening) and the potential for widespread flooding is significant, especially in high-risk areas,” the Weather Prediction Center said.

Rainfall totals through Sunday morning could range from 1.5 to 3 inches for most urban areas with between 3 and 6 inches on the coast and inland hills. Up to 8 inches over the Santa Cruz Mountains and locally up to 12 inches over favored peaks and higher terrain of the Santa Lucia Mountains.”

The looming forecast has led some ski resorts to announce closures. Kirkwood Mountain Resort said it would not open Friday, as would Northstar California Resort and Heavenly Resort in southern Lake Tahoe, on Nevada’s border with central California.

Meanwhile, the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center has issued an avalanche warning for parts of Monone County, according to the National Weather Service in Reno, Nevada.

Elsewhere in the West, snow fell early Friday in parts of Nevada, Oregon and Idaho, where 6 to 12 inches are possible now at lower elevations and 1 to 2 feet of snow at higher elevations. That snowfall is expected to move into Utah, western Colorado and Montana by Friday morning, when up to 2 feet of snow is also possible.

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