Governor Gavin Newsom declares a state of emergency in several counties as the US state prepares for heavy rainfall.
California is slamming the shutters with another fierce winter storm poised to bring heavy rains and high winds to the western US state, the latest in a series of “atmospheric rivers” that have ravaged residents in recent months.
Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for 21 counties ahead of possible flooding and disruption on Thursday. Mountain communities, already struggling with extreme snowfall, could be further flooded.
“The state is working around the clock with local partners to deploy lifesaving equipment and first responders in communities across California,” Newsom said in a statement Wednesday evening.
“With more dangerous storms on the horizon, we will continue to mobilize all available resources to protect Californians.”
While the onslaught of storms has helped boost California’s water supply, which has been stretched thin by years of extreme drought, it has also caused devastation and hardship across the state.
At least 20 people have died as a result of previous storms, and residents of some mountain communities have been left stranded on snowy roads.
The coming storm is known as a “pineapple express”, due to a buildup of moisture in the Pacific Ocean around Hawaii that can cause heavy rainfall on the west coast of the United States and Canada.
On Thursday, the National Weather Service (NWS) said more than 15 million people in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Sacramento region were affected by excessive rainfall and flood advisories.
California’s Bay Area and Central Coast could receive up to eight inches of rain this weekend.
More than 20 cm (eight inches) is expected in the Santa Cruz Mountains, while more than 25 cm (10 inches) may fall in the Santa Lucia Mountains that stretch along Big Sur’s famed coastline.
“Most of the flooding concerns are for the lower elevations that are prone to rapid river and stream rises,” said William Churchill, a meteorologist with the NWS Weather Prediction Center. “It’s really a combination of all that heavy rain that’s coming up and also rapidly melting snow.”
California has declared states of emergency in 13 counties following the storm that began March 1, a number now expanded by Newsom’s latest statement to cover more than half of California’s 58 counties.
In parts of the state at elevations above 8,000 feet, Thursday’s storm could drop as much as 8 feet of snow.
Some watches and warnings in California would remain in effect until Sunday.
Some waterfront communities along major rivers and their tributaries are also bracing for the possibility of overflowing streams swollen by heavy rains and runoff from melting snow.
In Tulare County, Sheriff Mike Boudreaux issued an evacuation warning on Wednesday for homes and businesses along a stretch of the Kings River, which drains the Sierra Nevada Mountains, ahead of “this rain-on-snow event.”
Elsewhere, the NWS issued “prepare now” warnings for residents along the Big Sur, Carmel, Salinas and Pajaro rivers.