California is recovering from a deadly storm that brought rainfall 400% to 600% above average—and more rain is on the way



CNN

Emergency crews are busy clearing flooded neighborhoods and crumbling roads after a powerful storm slammed into California with torrential downpours and strong winds, forcing thousands of evacuations — and another round of rain is on the way.

Already, storms that have hit California in recent weeks have left at least 17 people dead as much of the state received rainfall totals of 400% to 600% above average.

The rain eased in Southern California Tuesday evening, but across the state more than 6 million people remained under a flood warning as the next in a flood of atmospheric rivers was forecast to bring heavy rain and potentially more flooding to Northern California starting Wednesday .

It’s the first of four more atmospheric river events — long, narrow regions in the atmosphere that can transport moisture thousands of kilometers — expected to hit California over the next 10 days.

The next round of rain is moving in front of a large cyclone in the eastern Pacific that is also expected to bring precipitation to the northwest Pacific by Wednesday evening.

“We’re expecting some very intense weather coming in,” California said Gov. Gavin Newsom on Twitter on Tuesday.

The heaviest rain over the next seven days is expected in northern parts of the state where the National Weather Service is forecasting another 5 to 10 inches, with locally higher amounts.

While none of the upcoming storms are individually expected to be as impactful as recent ones, the cumulative effect could be significant in a state where much of the soil is already too saturated to absorb more rain and streets are still flooded from previous storms. .

“We’ve had five atmospheric rivers come into California in two weeks,” said Lt. Govt. Eleni Kounalakis to CNN. “Everything is wet. Everything is saturated. Everything is at breaking point and more rain is coming.”

As another storm looms, many communities are still picking up the pieces.

Residents scramble to retrieve belongings before floodwaters rise too high in Merced, California, on January 10, 2023.

Parts of Central and Southern California saw intense damage. There were about 150-200 reports of flooding and mudslides across the southern region in a 28-hour period, National Weather Service Meteorologist Todd Hall said Tuesday.

In the Los Angeles neighborhood of Chatsworth, several people had to be rescued after a sinkhole swallowed two vehicles on Tuesday. In Malibu, a massive boulder came down and closed a key road.

Further north, another sinkhole was reported Monday in Santa Barbara County’s Santa Maria, where 20 homes were evacuated, CNN affiliate KEYT reported.

Flooding in Santa Barbara County damaged 10 to 15 homes Monday, according to officials. On the Central Coast, Santa Cruz County officials reported widespread damage, including a collapsed bridge.

As the storm wreaked havoc, about 34,000 residents were ordered to flee their homes, including the entire community of Montecito in Santa Barbara County and 18,600 people in Santa Cruz County, according to government officials.

“The storms hit us like a water balloon that exploded and just released water down through our rivers and streams. So there’s been this massive amount of flooding — it’s been the cycles over and over,” Santa Cruz County spokesman Jason Hoppin told CNN.” It’s really taking a toll on society.”

Hoppin said 131 homes in the county sustained significant damage but were salvageable, while five others were unsalvageable.

As evacuation orders were lifted, some residents returned to flooded homes and mud-covered neighborhoods.

In the Felton Grove area of ​​Santa Cruz County, residents have had to evacuate twice due to major flooding as the San Lorenzo River swelled, CNN affiliate KGO reported. Residents were busy Tuesday shoveling mud out of their garages and driveways.

“It’s great to live on the river. It’s not so great living in the river – it’s a big difference,” one resident told the station. “We expected a flood, but not like this”

A person stands among storm debris that washed up on the beach Tuesday in Aptos, California.

As trees crashed into houses and cars, rocks and mud fell from hillsides, rivers swelled and water flooded streets, the storm turned deadly.

Rebekah Rohde, 40, and Steven Sorensen, 61, were both found “with trees on top of their tents” over the weekend, according to a news release from the Sacramento County Coroner. Both were outdoors, according to the release.

In the San Joaquin Valley, a tree fell on a pickup truck on State Route 99 in Visalia early Tuesday, killing the driver and leading to the death of a motorcyclist who crashed into the tree, the California Highway Patrol said.

A driver died after driving onto a flooded road in Avila Beach on Monday, according to the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office.

“It only takes six inches of water to lose control of a car to overturn. After 12 inches, cars start to float away, Kounalakis said. “You’ve heard that creeks have risen 14 feet just in the last day and in certain areas we’ve had over a foot of rain — just in the last 48 hours. So that’s incredible.”

Crews carried out a series of rescue operations over the past two days, sometimes by boat or helicopter.

A 5-year-old boy was swept away from a truckload of floodwaters Monday morning near the Salinas River in San Miguel, about a 215-mile drive northwest of Los Angeles, authorities said. An hour-long search for the child resumed on Tuesday morning after it was called off due to poor weather conditions on Monday afternoon.

“The mother in the vehicle was fortunately rescued shortly after the vehicle became stranded,” CAL FIRE San Luis Obispo Assistant Chief Tom Swanson told CNN Tuesday afternoon. “We currently have search teams out there combing the shorelines and in the water with a dive team on standby.”

As water levels rose, resources were spread thin Monday, Swanson said, describing bridges that were compromised, trees blocking homes and stranded vehicles.

In Santa Barbara County, 265 firefighters had responded to more than 400 storm-related calls spread across the county’s roughly 3,000 square miles by Tuesday afternoon, Santa Barbara County Fire Chief Anthony Stornetta said.

In the city of Santa Barbara, there were 110 calls for help, ranging from gas leaks to people stuck in cars, homes and elevators, according to Santa Barbara City Fire Chief Chris Mailes.

This aerial photo shows rescue crews assisting stranded residents in a flooded neighborhood in Merced, Calif., on Tuesday.

While heavy rain, flooding and mudslides from the latest storm subsided Tuesday night, the next round of moisture will affect the Bay Area starting Wednesday morning, when more watches are likely to be issued.

Northern California’s respite from the rain will be much shorter than the South’s as the new atmospheric river affects areas from San Francisco north on Wednesday and Thursday.

It is expected to be followed by a storm this weekend, another event early next week and another midweek. The last three are expected to have a more widespread impact across the state.

As the latest round of moisture moves inland, winter weather advisories were issued for six western states, including Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. The lower elevation areas could see 4-12 inches of snowfall with higher elevations potentially 1-2 feet.

Winter storm warnings are also in place for the Sierra Nevada mountain range, where 2-7 inches of snowfall is possible.

Although the series of atmospheric rivers have plagued California with floods, mudslides and power outages, they have also brought useful snow to the Sierra Mountains.

The Eastern Sierra now has a record snow water equivalent for this date and is higher than the median peak typically seen in March, according to weather service.

Areas across the mountains have seen widespread amounts of one to three feet of snow in recent days, with Mammoth Mountain, California, picking up 54 inches.

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