The atmospheric rivers that have hit California in recent weeks have dumped massive amounts of rain into the state and brought dozens of highways to a standstill – with more rain on the way.
At least 40 state highways were closed Wednesday night across the state, Will Arnold, a spokesman for the state department of transportation, told CNN.
“We’re asking the public, if you don’t have to be on the roads, stay home and avoid all non-essential travel,” Arnold said.
In 16 days, California’s swaths received between 50% and 70% of the amount of precipitation that normally occurs throughout the year, according to the National Weather Service. Isolated areas, especially in the mountains near Santa Barbara, receive more than 90% of their annual rainfall.
At least 18 people have died in the storms over the past two weeks as flooding flooded streets and toppled trees as well as other hazards. More than 100 members of the National Guard were in San Luis Obispo County looking for missing 5-year-old Kyle Doan after he was swept away by flooding on Monday – with more troops arriving to help on Thursday, the county sheriff said.
A series of storm systems led to swollen rivers, flooded streets, sinkholes, damaged roads, damaged homes, gushing sewage, and forced thousands of people to flee their homes.
And the evacuations are still going on. Monterey County officials have ordered residents to evacuate low-lying areas of the Salinas River, warning that Thursday’s flooding from the rising river could be devastating and turn the area into an island, cutting it off from basic services.
“The Monterey Peninsula could become an island again, as it did during the 1995 flooding, so start preparing now,” warned Monterey County Sheriff Tina Nieto.
Solano County, Bay Area, issued an evacuation alert for 1,600 people on Wednesday amid fears Lake Curry could flood downstream.
“We’ve had six storms in the last two weeks,” California Lieutenant Eleni Kounalakis said Wednesday. “You can get weather like this in a year, and we’ve compressed it into just two weeks.”
Although most of the state took a breather from Thursday’s rain, the dam is not over yet.
Three more atmospheric river phenomena – long, narrow regions in the atmosphere that can carry moisture for thousands of miles – are expected to hit California in the next 10 days.
“It’s literally the calm between the storms – not before them,” California Governor Gavin Newsom said in a Facebook video, standing near a pier that was damaged by a recent storm.
The state is expected to experience several additional rounds of rain in the coming days. Heavier rainfall will return to central California on Friday and spread south across most of the state on Saturday.
Ever since the relentless parade of atmospheric rivers began to hit California on December 26, rainfall totals have been enormous.
According to the National Weather Service, between December 26 and January 10, 13.59 inches of precipitation fell in downtown San Francisco, 11.21 inches in Napa, and 9.58 inches in downtown Sacramento.
Oakland recorded 12.90 inches of rain during the period – the wettest 16-day period in the city’s history and accounting for 69% of their annual average for that period.
Atmospheric rivers will continue to affect California next week, according to Storm Prediction Center. Here’s what to expect:
- Thursday: Heavy rains will be limited along California’s northern coast and into Oregon and Washington until Thursday night, with little chance of excessive rainfall in northwestern California.
- Friday: The atmospheric river is likely to move eastward, hitting northern and central California on Friday. Winter storm clocks will go into effect across the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
- SaturdayA: A second system will come in Saturday, with rainfall spreading south and beginning to affect the entire state. Excessive rainfall can occur in central California. Heavy snowfall could lead to dangerous conditions when traveling to the mountains on Friday and Saturday over 5,000 feet and mountain passes in northern and central California.
- Sunday: Moisture will move to inland western states, bringing relief from drought in the Four Corners region in particular. Rain will continue to fall on the west coast and snow in the mountains.
- Monday: Another round of moisture will affect southern California and bring more moisture to the Four Corners, which will last until Tuesday. Meanwhile, there will be a breakthrough in northern California.
- Tuesday: A new round of moisture will begin to affect the Pacific Northwest and northern California, which will last until Wednesday. Central and Southern California may see a break.
While none of the upcoming storms are expected to have as severe an impact as the 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. thunderstorms
“With already saturated conditions prevailing, limited flooding effects are expected in northern and central California next week,” the storm prediction center said.
Recent snowstorms since late December have brought more than 10 feet of snow to parts of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, according to the National Weather Service.
While snow can be treacherous and close key roads, it can be beneficial to a drought-stricken state’s water supply.
According to the California Department of Water Resources, snowpack in the Sierra Nevada provides an average of 30% of California’s freshwater resources in an average year.
According to the agency, current snow cover in the Sierra ranges from 184 to 269% of normal for this point in the season.
Still, it’s important to remember that “these storms have not ended the drought,” said the California Department of Water Resources.
“Storage in major reservoirs remains below average, and conditions could dry out again this winter, compensating for recent rainfall and snowfall,” state officials said. Lake Oroville’s capacity is 88% of the day’s average, and the state’s largest reservoir, Shasta, is only 70% of the day’s average.