The latest in a series of powerful storm fronts driven by atmospheric rivers hit California again on Saturday, as the state continued to grapple with heavy rain and flooding that caused widespread damage and forced thousands to evacuate.
At a news conference Saturday in Merced County, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said the storms they are to blame for at least 19 deaths.
A series of atmospheric rivers – large regions of the atmosphere that carry water – are responsible for the storms that have battered California since December 1. 26. Newsom Saturday estimated that California has been hit by eight atmospheric rivers so far, with a possible ninth.
The governor also estimated that between 22 and 25 billion gallons of rain have fallen on the state since the storms began a few weeks ago.
“The stacking of these atmospheric rivers, such as we have not experienced in our lifetimes. The reality is that this is only one eighth of what we anticipate will be nine atmospheric rivers,” Newsom told reporters. “We’re not done. I know there comes a point at any difficult time where people are fatigued… I just pray that we all keep our vigilance, our common sense for the next 24 to 48 hours.”
President Biden on Saturday night issued a major disaster declaration for California. Among other things, the declaration will make federal funds available to residents and businesses in Merced, Sacramento and Santa Cruz counties to help pay for recovery efforts, such as home repairs. The aid can consist of grants or loans.
The teams on Saturday were forced to call off the search for a missing 5 year old boy who was swept away by flooding Monday in San Marcos Creek near San Miguel due to rising water levels and unsuitable weather conditions, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office reported.
Just over 26,000 customers in California lost power Saturday afternoon, according to the outage tracking website. poweroutage.es.
Flood warnings have been issued for the region north of the San Francisco Bay, including Marin, Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties.
Warnings were posted for parts of counties, including San Mateo and Santa Cruz, where the small community of Felton Grove along the St. Lawrence River was ordered to evacuate. An evacuation order has also been issued for residents of the Wilton area in the semi-rural southeast of Sacramento County. Authorities cited the threat of flooding from the Cosumnes River.
“Floods are imminent,” Sacramento County Office of Emergency Services tweeted.
Residents in various parts of San Benito County, located south of San Jose, have also been ordered to evacuate.
Swollen Salinas River flooded farmland in Monterey County, and to the east, flood warnings were in effect for Merced County in the agricultural Central Valley.
Slippery roads, snow and bleed-through conditions plagued highways throughout the Sierra Nevada.
UC Berkeley’s Central Sierra Snow Lab tweeted Saturday morning that it received 21.3 inches of snow in 24 hours and that its snowpack of about 10 feet was expected to grow several more feet by Monday.
A backcountry avalanche warning has been issued for the central Sierra, including the greater Lake Tahoe area.
In Santa Barbara County, where a massive debris flow tore through the community of Montecito killed 23 people on January 2. On January 9, 2018, residents were told that no further evacuations were expected, but that they should be prepared.
Montecito and adjacent areas received the most recent evacuation order last Monday, the fifth anniversary of what is remembered locally as the “9/1 Debris Flow.” But the community perched on the foothills of the coastal mountains escaped serious damage.
Dry days are in the forecast for next week for California starting Tuesday.
“So the question will be whether we stay dry until the end of the month.” wrote the San Francisco Bay Area Weather Bureau.
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