Millions of Californians are bracing for another drenching as the next round of severe storms are expected to batter the state through the end of the week. In a stormy start to the year, where heavy rains and high winds have already toppled trees and caused waterfalls in streets and hillsides, resulting in large-scale damage and one confirmed fatality, the incoming system threatens to do more more havoc.
“We’re expecting fairly widespread flooding,” said Richard Bann, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center, noting that heavy snowfall in the Sierra Nevada Range and high winds could also pose problems for residents. travel and security. “It really is a multi-hazard event that will possibly last the better part of two days.”
An incoming bomb cyclone is expected to hit the San Francisco Bay Area and surrounding region on Wednesday before sweeping south, with forecasts warning that up to 10 inches of rain is possible in coastal mountainous areas. Areas that will experience lower rainfall could still be severely impacted due to the unfortunate timing and cumulative effect of the consecutive series of storms.
The NWS issued a warning about the risk of excessive rainfall affecting about 5 million people in northern and central California, as the agency’s meteorologists warned anyone in the path of the ‘really brutal system “to get ready.
Impacts could include “widespread flooding, washed out roads, collapsed hillsides, downed trees (potentially full groves), widespread power outages, immediate disruption to commerce and worst of all, the probable loss of human lives,” according to an NWS Bay Area Meteorologist, who wrote in a discussion on Monday that “this is likely to be one of the most impactful large-scale systems that [they had] seen for a long time”.
Meanwhile, many locals were still reeling from the previous rainy weekend.
The historic storm broke levees in Sacramento County, submerging thousands of acres and stranding dozens of drivers who were caught in the deluge. Evacuations have been ordered for two affected communities and the Cosumnes River has reportedly reached its highest level in history.
San Francisco, which recorded its second wettest day last weekend, also experienced widespread flooding after more than 5 inches of rain battered the city. To the south, two separate sinkholes have swallowed cars. As of Tuesday morning, about 23,000 people were still without power across the state as officials raced to get affected systems back on track during a day of dry reprieve.
Authorities confirmed on Sunday that a person was found dead in a submerged car in Sacramento County. Another, south of Santa Cruz, was killed by a fallen tree. The NWS has warned that, with conditions expected to worsen over the week, other life-threatening dangers loom.
A flood watch remains in effect with high risks of “extensive street flooding in parts of the Bay Area and Central Coast,” the NWS said in a discussion of the forecast, adding that “these conditions will also result in an increased threat of shallow and widespread landslides.” .
Along with the dangers, the heavy soak will also provide a healthy dose of moisture for the drought-stricken state, but experts said the downpour would not be effective in combating the long-term drought. Even with a solid snow dump at higher elevations – which helps replenish water systems during drier periods – getting heavy bursts of precipitation is much less useful than lighter rains over longer periods.
“The Sierra’s heavy snowpack is welcome news, but unfortunately these same storms are bringing flooding to parts of California,” Department of Water Resources Director Karla Nemeth said in a written statement released. with an update on the latest snow survey, which found levels. were 177% of average before the impending big storm. “This is a prime example of the threat of extreme flooding during a prolonged drought as California experiences more oscillations between wet and dry periods brought on by our changing climate.”
Last year showed a similar trend, with a promising start that led to a long period of dry days. The weather boost, when heavy rains cheat parched systems, does less to aid recovery, especially when storms are violent and destructive.
“We don’t want to get all the rainfall to wipe out the drought all at once,” Bann of the NWS said. “The fact that we have several days of this and heavy snowfall in the mountains will help alleviate some of those concerns – but we still have a long way to go.”