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Dangerous storm moves into so many parts of California bracing for flooding

The first of two atmospheric river storms descended on California on Friday, prompting widespread evacuation orders while flooding streams and rivers and dumping heavy, warm rains on top of the state’s near-record snowpack.

Governor Gavin Newsom requested the declaration of emergency from President Biden, which would authorize federal support for state and local responses to the storm.

Newsom on Thursday proclaimed a state of emergency in 21 counties, activating the California National Guard and other state agencies to respond to storm-related emergencies.

“California is deploying every tool we have to protect communities from the unrelenting and deadly storms that batter our state,” Newsom said. “In these dangerous and challenging conditions, it is crucial that Californians remain vigilant and follow all instructions from local emergency services.”

California has already been hit by a series of cold storms this year, and officials fear this warmer system could melt snow and cause rivers to rise.

Northern California saw steady rain overnight, with showers expected to continue through the day. Flash flood watches are in effect for a swath of the region, as well as parts of the Central Valley and Central Coast.

The threat will not abate when this storm leaves this weekend. Another atmospheric river is expected to follow early next week, with a third possible around March 19, according to state climatologist Mike Anderson.

According to the National Weather Service, some of the highest flood risks will be in the coastal areas from Salinas to San Luis Obispo, and throughout the Central Valley.

officials in ash tree, Wood, Modest and Santa Cruz Counties have issued evacuation warnings for some communities due to possible flooding. San Luis Obispo County, which experienced significant flooding during January storms, has the “potential for similar impactsfrom the incoming system, the weather service said.

In the Merced County city of Planada, officials went door-to-door to many homes Wednesday and Thursday to warn of a potential disaster. The city was almost completely flooded after a levee breached in January.

“People are full of fear,” County Supervisor Rodrigo Espinosa said from his car as he returned from watching crews sandbag nearby Bear Creek. He hoped that sandbags, debris cleanup and other infrastructure improvements would prevent the worst case scenario.

At least seven rivers are forecast to overflow their banks due to the incoming storm “Pineapple Express,” which is expected to drop warm, heavy rain that will melt snow as it moves from the Central Coast south into the Sierras through Saturday. .

Among them are rivers that flooded earlier in the year, when nine atmospheric river storms hit the state. The waterways include the Cosumnes River near Sacramento, where more than a dozen levee breaches sent flooding to highways and low-lying areas, trapping drivers and contributing to at least three deaths along Highway 99.

The incoming storm will bring down sodden ground and some of the deepest snowpack on record for California. Both can exacerbate the potential for runoff and erosion.

In high-elevation areas, the biggest threat from the storm will likely be structural damage, as rain makes snowpack even heavier, UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain said during a briefing. The state has seen a series of roof collapses due to heavy snowfall, including a grocery store providing crucial supplies in Crestline.

“There really is going to be significant melting of snowpack, which is substantial at those elevations, as heavy rains fall,” Swain said. “But really, the main flood threat comes from the fact that the storm will bring a significant amount of rain in its own right.”