Torrential weather continues to bombard swathes of California as an atmospheric river is expected to cause extensive flooding in the state today, while a new storm also threatened another avalanche of rain, snow and gusty winds.
The National Weather Service warned late Sunday that the upcoming system could exacerbate severe flooding that has hit the area in recent days, prompting a levee failure and widespread evacuations Saturday near the state’s central coast.
The new storm is not expected to bring as much rain, but forecasters warned that “considerable flooding” could occur at lower elevations due to the additional rain and snow-swollen creeks and creeks.
Local schools and roads remained closed Monday as evacuation orders remained in effect in devastated central California around the Pajaro River, where roads were submerged under water.
Adding to the chaos, a tornado touched down briefly in Tuolumne County during heavy thunderstorms Saturday that also dumped an inch of hail.
The latest abnormal weather follows weeks of turmoil for the state that has seen catastrophic flash floods, storm surges, quarter-sized hail and snowfall that have killed at least 13 people.
Flooding covers most of Pajaro, California on Sunday as evocation orders remain in effect
Snow banks from new and past storms accumulated in the Sierra Nevada mountains, following an atmospheric event on the river on Sunday.
Local schools and roads remained closed Monday as evacuation orders held in place in devastated central California around the Pajaro River.
The Pajaro River channel meanders along the county line between Monterey County with submerged fields underwater
‘Definitely prepare for more flood impacts. The soil is very saturated. We are already seeing some impacts from some amounts of light,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Eleanor Dhuyvetter.
Today’s rain and snow are expected to extend from central California to Oregon and northern Nevada. Wind gusts of up to 50 mph (80 kph) are expected in some locations and could damage power lines and break tree limbs.
But the new storm is moving fast, which means it won’t have time to dump as much rain.
Over the past two days, more than 20 inches (50 centimeters) of snow has fallen at a measuring station in the Sierra Nevada, with more expected. Snow cover is now nearly double average and the highest in about four decades, according to UC Berkeley’s Central Sierra Snow Lab.
The snowpack stores much-needed water for a state seeking to emerge from a three-year drought.
As much as a foot (30 centimeters) of rain fell in the Big Sur area of the state over a two-day period, weather data.
Officials suggest residents have a plan in case more evacuation orders are issued.
Across Monterey County, more than 8,500 people were evacuated Saturday, including approximately 1,700 residents, many of them Latino farmworkers, from the unincorporated community of Pájaro.
“We are still in disaster response mode,” Monterey County spokesman Nicholas Pasculli said Sunday. He said the county is organizing high water rescue teams throughout the county and opening more shelters in anticipation of more flooding.
An atmospheric river storm breached a levee along the Pajaro River, flooding homes and businesses and leaving thousands without shelter.
Floodwater rushes onto farmland through a levee break in the Pajaro River on Sunday.
North Monterey County, just across the Pajaro River from Watsonville, California, was submerged with floodwaters Sunday.
Highway 1, also known as Pacific Coast Highway, is closed at various points throughout Big Sur and near Pajaro due to flooding.
The atmospheric river, known as the “Pineapple Express” because it brought warm subtropical moisture across the Pacific from near Hawaii, was melting the lower reaches of massive snowpack in the California mountains.
Due to massive flooding early this weekend, first responders and the California National Guard had to rescue more than 50 people. One video showed a Guard member helping a driver out of a car trapped in waist-deep water.
The extent of the property damage was still uncertain, but Luis Alejo, president of the Monterey County Board of Supervisors, sought help from the state and federal governments.
‘The need will be great! Our residents will take months to repair the houses!’ he wrote her in a tweet on Saturday.
Governor Gavin Newsom has declared emergencies in 34 counties in recent weeks, and the Biden administration approved a presidential disaster declaration for some on Friday morning. President Joe Biden spoke with Newsom on Saturday to pledge federal support for California’s emergency response, the White House said.
Weather-related power outages affected more than 17,000 customers in Monterey County Saturday night, according to the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. As of late Sunday morning, some 7,000 were still without power.
The governor’s office said it continued to monitor the situation in Pájaro.
A thunderstorm and tornado warmed up for this cloud formation in northeast Stanislaus County over the weekend.
Highway 190 is closed after mudslides during heavy rain in Springville, California on March 11, 2023
The Pajaro River separates Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. Authorities had been working to shore up parts of the river’s levee system when it broke around midnight Friday into Saturday. Crews began work to repair the levee around dawn Saturday while residents slept in evacuation centers.
Built in the late 1940s to provide flood protection, the levee has been a known hazard for decades with several breaches in the 1990s. Emergency repairs were made to a section of the berm in January. A $400 million rebuild is scheduled to begin in 2025.
This week’s storm marked the state’s 10th atmospheric river of the winter, storms that brought tremendous amounts of rain and snow to the state and helped ease dry conditions.
State reservoirs that had dipped to shockingly low levels are now well above average for this time of year, prompting state officials to release water from reservoirs to help control flooding and make room for more rain.