Powerful storm hits California amid warnings of ‘potentially historic rain’

Powerful storm hits California amid warnings of ‘potentially historic rain’

A powerful storm hit the California shore, inundating freeways, knocking down trees and causing mudslides in areas scorched by recent fires.

After months of drought, the dark clouds that gathered over the state over the weekend were a welcome sight for some. But rather than the drizzle that residents and authorities hoped could end a disastrous fire season and dampen the dry landscapes, the state suffered a deluge. Some areas are expected to receive more than 10 inches of rain and thousands of people across the state have lost power.

“A powerful storm on the west coast is likely to produce areas of heavy rain with life-threatening flash floods, especially over burn scars, high winds and heavy waves along the coast,” he said. the National Weather Service reported on Sunday, adding that “some areas that do not normally experience flash floods.”

Torrential rains and strong winds accompanied the arrival of an “atmospheric river” – a long, broad plume of moisture from the Pacific Ocean that was expected to move south over the next few days. The Sacramento Weather Service office has warned of a “potentially historic rain.”

Forecasters predict record-breaking rainfall and strong winds will continue through Tuesday, wreaking havoc in the northern part of the state, especially in areas near places where the fires have burned in the past two years.

“If you find yourself near a recent burn scar and you haven’t already, prepare for the likely debris flows now,” the Weather Service wrote on Twitter. “If the local authorities tell you to evacuate or if you feel threatened, do not hesitate to do so. If it’s too late to evacuate, go to higher ground.

Evacuation orders have been issued in several areas – parts of San Mateo County that burned in 2020 to Santa Barbara County where the Alisal fire which still had not been fully contained on Sunday morning – and the California office of emergency services also crews deployed to help heal scars from burns through the Sierra Nevada range.

“It’s a reminder to have your backpack ready and heed the warnings from authorities,” the agency tweeted, noting that state emergency resources were being sent to help counties cross the river. storm. “Like in a forest fire, if you are told to evacuate, don’t wait! “

The Bay Area is also bracing for record rainfall that is expected to continue throughout the day. Debris flows and flooding were reported in North Bay, parts of Marin, while roads were closed in San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland. As of sunrise Sunday, Mount Tamalpais, just north of San Francisco, had recorded more than 6 inches of rain in the previous 12 hours, according to the National Weather Service.

The storm also produces hurricane-force winds that tear through the bay area, knocking down trees. Gusts above 50 mph increased the risk as roads were blocked and houses had to be evacuated.

“The maximum gusts were around 70 mph on the higher peaks with gusts of 40 to 50 mph filtering through the lower areas,” the weather service said. “Expect the winds to linger in the main rain band, but reduce them before the rain starts to recede. “

There are fears that California’s homeless residents, most of whom reside outdoors on the streets and sidewalks, may be at risk from heavy rains. More than 161,500 people are typically homeless in the state on any given day, according to official 2020 tally, organizations have already started calling for help for those whose shelters have been overwhelmed by the storm.

About 150 miles (241 km) north, the California Highway Patrol closed State Route 70 in Butte County due to mudslides in the massive Caldor Fire burn scar.

“We have already had several collisions this morning for hydroplaning of vehicles, the fall of many trees and several roads that are suffering from flooding”, tweeted the office of the road patrol in Oroville. “If you can stay home and off the road today, do it. If you are on the roads, be extremely careful.

Scorched areas remain a concern, as land devoid of vegetation cannot absorb heavy rains as quickly, increasing the likelihood of mudslides and flash floods that could trap people.

Recent storms have helped contain some of the country’s biggest wildfires this year. But it remains to be seen whether the wet weather will make a dent in the drought plaguing California and the western United States. California’s climate is now warmer and drier, which means that falling rain and snow are likely to evaporate or be absorbed into the ground.

California’s water year 2021, which ended on September 30, was the second driest on record and last year was the fifth driest on record. Some of the state’s largest reservoirs are at record levels.

Nearly 94% of California is currently experiencing severe drought, as listed by the US Drought Monitor, and scientists at the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center have said much of the western region is so dry it it would require “a maintenance above normal.” rainfall for several weeks for significant improvements ”. This torrential downpour event will impact the north, but it is unlikely to affect the thirsty southwest.

Climate change, which has intensified the drought conditions with higher heat that has removed moisture from the land and the atmosphere, has also paved the way for larger extremes like the storm currently hitting the west coast .

“A lot of times when we talk about whether it was a wet or a dry year, you’re averaging the entire season,” John Fasullo, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), told the Guardian. “But with climate change, greater amounts of precipitation are delivered in shorter gusts. It’s much more damaging, especially after the fires, he said, adding that climate change has produced a “multiplier effect.”


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