California faces ‘relentless parade’ of new storms with heavy rain

A series of deadly and destructive storms continued to hammer California on Monday, as the drought-stricken state grapples with the sudden onslaught of a very wet January.

Joe Biden issued an emergency declaration for California on Sunday, unlocking federal aid to support recovery as mud slides, engorged rivers and streams, and wind-strewn trees wreaked havoc on already-inundated infrastructure across the state. The California department of water resources warned that more than a dozen places were at high risk of flooding.

“We are in the middle of a deadly barrage of winter storms – and California is using every resource at its disposal to protect lives and limit damage,” said the state’s governor, Gavin Newsom, in a written statement. “We are taking the threat from these storms seriously and want to make sure that Californians stay vigilant as more storms head our way.”

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Storm-weary residents are facing another bout of heavy downpours, high winds and flooding this week, with two major new storms expected to drop heavy rainfall on the coast and snow in the mountains in the coming days.

Relentless rainstorms over the last 10 days have already killed 12 people, toppled trees and flooded roads, and left thousands of homes and businesses without power. Roughly 139,000 were without power by Monday morning, according to, an organization that tracks outages live.

Most of California’s 39 million residents could expect heavy rainfall of up to 5in (13cm) near the coast, more than a foot of snow to the west and wind gusts reaching 65mph across the state, the National Weather Service said.

California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, said 12 people died as a result of violent weather during the last 10 days, and he warned that this week’s storms could be even more dangerous. He urged people to stay home and asked Joe Biden to declare a federal emergency to support storm response and recovery efforts.

Cars and vineyards submerged in Windsor, California.
Cars and vineyards submerged in Windsor, California. Back-to-back storms have brought widespread flooding in the state. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The Sacramento city unified school district canceled school on Monday, with six campuses without electricity, the Sacramento Bee reported. More than 36,000 customers remained without power early Monday, down from more than 350,000 a day earlier after gusts of 60mph (97km/h) knocked trees into power lines, according to the Sacramento municipal utility district.

The National Weather Service warned of a “relentless parade of atmospheric rivers” – storms that are long plumes of moisture stretching out into the Pacific and are capable of dropping staggering amounts of rain and snow.

For days, California has been walloped by Pacific storms that spawned violent wind gusts that toppled trees, flooded towns along northern California’s coast and churned up a storm surge that destroyed a pier in Santa Cruz.

The first of the newest, heavier storms prompted the weather service to issue a flood watch for a large swath of northern and central California, with 6 to 12in of rain expected through Wednesday in the already saturated Sacramento-area foothills.

In the Los Angeles area, stormy conditions were expected to return Monday, with the potential for up to 8in in foothill areas. High surf was expected through Tuesday, with large waves on west-facing beaches.

Since 26 December, San Francisco received more than 10in of rain, while Mammoth Mountain, a popular ski area in the Eastern Sierra, got nearly 10ft (3 meters) of snow, the National Weather Service reported.

The storms will not be enough to officially end California’s ongoing drought – but they have helped. Statewide, reservoir storage jumped to 78% of average – a significant gain – but there is a long way to go. The strong start to the snowpack, which acts as a savings account of sorts during drier days, is promising, experts say, but there’s no promise of wet weather after these strong storms.

Michael Anderson, a state climatologist, said at a news briefing late on Saturday that officials were closely monitoring Monday’s incoming storm and another behind it, and were keeping an eye on three other systems farther out in the Pacific.

Source of data and images: theguardian

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