Another powerful atmospheric river storm threatens California with more flooding, landslides and damaging winds over the next two days, as the storm that inundated the state last week now drifts across the Midwest.
“The storm is coming,” National Weather Service forecasters urgently warned in the Bay Area Tuesday evening, advising residents that the system would bring “strong wind and rain.”
As California continues to deal with last weekend’s deadly flooding, the new storm, expected to arrive Wednesday, will bring up to four inches of rain and winds up to 40 miles per hour to the valleys and heavy snowfall in the mountains, according to the Weather Forecast Center forecast. Flood warnings were in place Wednesday evening through Thursday in the area north of San Francisco, and flood watches were in effect in southern California.
As the storm approached the West Coast Tuesday night, it triggered a mandatory evacuation order in the flood-prone town of Watsonville and Santa Cruz County, south of San Francisco. San Jose and adjacent counties of San Mateo and Santa Cruz have declared local emergencies.
“Residents and visitors located in California over the next few days are advised to check their local forecasts and plan ahead for potentially hazardous weather conditions,” the Weather Prediction Center said. Meteorologists also suggested preparing for flooding, downed trees and power outages and said travel by road would be difficult or impossible in some areas.
Preparations for the storm were in full swing across the state. The California National Guard was seen installing flood barriers and sandbags in Sacramento, and officials in San Mateo County, just west of San Jose, had activated its emergency operations center. Several northern California parks were also closed due to tree hazards, and the South San Francisco Unified School District announced it would cancel classes on Thursday.
The Governor’s Office said on Twitter that the state operations center was at its highest emergency level and that the flood operations center was assisting local residents with obtaining sandbags and other necessities in the event of a storm. Shelters were being opened and staff were ready to be deployed to hospitals and ambulance teams, officials said.
The latest storm is part of a series of atmospheric rivers, moisture channels in the tropical Pacific Ocean, which meteorologists predict will continue through mid-January.
In drought-stricken California, heavy rains and snow have brought some relief. But rising waters flooded streets and inundated homes in parts of the state. Streets and basements still drained in downtown San Francisco, one of the neighborhoods hardest hit by the approaching storm.
Already soggy from successive storms, California’s soil has become less absorbent, so even a few inches of rain could cause it to flood and slide, forecasters said.
“Recent rainfall has left soils saturated and susceptible to flooding and rapid runoff issues,” the Weather Prediction Center said. “Sensitive terrain will also have the potential for landslides.”
An atmospheric river that flooded the West Coast on December 26 killed at least five people. Another swept east across the country Tuesday, bringing strong tornadoes, thunderstorms and flooding to parts of the Plains, Upper Midwest and South after bringing snow to Utah and the Arizona.
This storm is expected to lessen in intensity across the Midwest by Wednesday evening as it moves toward the East Coast, the Weather Prediction Center said. It continued to trigger tornadoes and bring large hail to the Midwest and Southeast Tuesday night.
Derrick Bryson Taylor contributed report.