Northern California weather forecasters have a sobering New Year’s message for those reeling from floods and landslides: the situation could get worse before it gets better.
Parts of the state remained on flash flood warning Monday morning, after a weather phenomenon known as an atmospheric river reduced historic rainfall in San Francisco, Oakland and other areas . But a second atmospheric river is predicted to arrive soon — and it will be as bad or worse than the New Year’s Eve flood, weather forecasters warn.
“Like the late 2022 storm, this will be a strong wind with moderate to heavy rainfall,” According to the National Weather Service in the San Francisco Bay Area in Monday.
The office said it was the third atmospheric river to make landfall in the area since December 26, adding that parts of the Russian River were currently at particular risk of flooding. The NWS also said the storm’s strong winds could cause severe damage in areas where the soil is already saturated with rainwater.
Here’s a rundown of where things are and where forecasters say they’re headed:
Storm covers an area fighting floods
As the new year approaches, a large swath of California has heavy rain and snow. Floods and landslides closed roads, and high winds cut power to tens of thousands of people.
The NWS site in downtown San Francisco recorded 5.46 inches of rain on December 31 — the second wettest day at that site in more than 170 years, NWS he said.
As of Monday noon local time, about 39,000 electricity accounts were without power in California, with another 20,000 in Nevada, according to PowerOutage.us.
In the Sierra, the storm dropped snow at up to 7.5 inches an hour, according to reports NWS office in Reno. The Tahoe Basin has 20 to 24 inches of snow at lake level, with twice as much snow at 7,000 feet.
Rescuers rescue people from vehicles unable to move because of flood water. At least one death was linked to the storm over the weekend, after workers in southern Sacramento County found a dead person inside a submerged vehicle near Highway 99, as the member station. Capital Radio reported.
On Sunday, Mary Spencer-Gode of Sacramento and other residents gasped at the damage in their streets, where the storm toppled a large elm tree on New Year’s Eve.
“The wind is going crazy,” she told Capital Public Radio. “We turned off the TV so we could hear it. As I was sitting in the kitchen, I heard a loud ‘woosh’ and it was like the house was moving.”
Then there’s more flood worries: The Sacramento County government on Sunday raised the evacuation warning for the community of Point Pleasant to one serious level. evacuation ordersays flooding is imminent and will “become extremely dangerous after sunset.”
Across California, light rainfall is expected earlier this week — the first of two smaller systems that forecasters forecast will produce a fierce storm known as the river. ozone.
Micah Crockett/Caltrans District 2 via AP
Wait, what is an atmospheric river?
Atmospheric rivers are a normal part of West Coast weather patterns, and they’re often the solution to months of drought due to warm weather, bringing much-needed rain and snowfall that causes water to rise. on the mountain.
“It’s just a narrow area of high humidity being moved out of the tropics to higher latitudes,” said NWS senior forecaster Bob Oravec. recently told NPR.
For states along the West Coast, atmospheric rivers are “actually responsible for most of the precipitation during the colder season, which is the season when they receive the most rain,” Oravec said.
Precipitation can be enormous: a single atmospheric river “can carry more water than the Mississippi at its mouth”, as NPR reported. And forecasters have long warned that the system’s winds are dangerous. Five years ago, one of the storms overthrow the legendary “Pioneer Cabin Tree” sequoia in Calaveras Big Trees State Park.
Atmospheric rivers are more likely to occur in a La Niña climate pattern like the one we see today, with water in the Pacific Ocean being cooler than average. This is the third winter in a row La Niña has raged, according to Climate.gov.
Truckee patrols California highways via AP
Expect to see the atmospheric river arrive on Wednesday
A powerful storm system in the Pacific is likely to begin hitting California late Tuesday and early Wednesday, according to the report. NWS Bay Area Officesaid the storm has consistently shown “impressive numbers.”
Forecasts now show the storm slowing as it approaches and inland, increasing the damage it could do and prompting forecasters along the California coast to raise the alert.
On Wednesday, the atmospheric river could bring 2 to 3 inches of rain in California’s Central Valley, with 3 to 6 inches of rain in the foothills and mountains, the NWS office in Sacramento said. speak. Additionally, a strong low-level jet will bring gusts of 35-50 mph in valleys and foothills, with winds of 60 mph in the mountains.
NWS offices in Oxnard and Los Angeles due to expected longer durations and large amounts of moisture, the upcoming storm “will outlast Saturday night’s storm by at least an inch and possibly more in areas above.” High”. speakadded that rain is expected to subside from Thursday night into Friday.
Along with flooding, the risk of landslides is particularly high in areas of recent wildfires, where there is no longer enough ground cover to absorb and retain moisture.