PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – Hundreds of thousands of Californians were without power Sunday amid high winds and heavy rain, the latest in an unrelenting wave of brutal storms that could deliver the worst damage yet on Monday, when a “firehose of moisture” was expected to hit The situation is soaked.
More than half of Sacramento’s 530,000 residents were in the dark at the height of the storm Sunday, battered by winds of up to 60 mph that toppled trees and tangled power lines, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District said.
“Atmospheric river events” will continue to batter California through early this week, with the strongest system likely to arrive Monday, the National Weather Service said. Additional rain on saturated soils will lead to significant flooding, mudslides and burn-scar debris flows, the weather service said.
Widespread mountain snow and strong winds will add to weather problems across the state, the statement warned.
“This could be a deadly situation and the storm will likely be a billion dollar disaster,” AccuWeather meteorologist Ariella Scalese tweeted. “Several more inches of rain, mudslides/avalanches. Plus, feet of snow above 6,500 feet and wind gusts in excess of 100 mph.”
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- More than 360,000 homes and businesses across California were without power Sunday.
- Evacuation warnings were in place for about 13,000 residents of Sonoma County north of San Francisco, where the Russian River is expected to overflow its banks in the coming days.
- The state Department of Transportation warned drivers to avoid mountain roads after a section of U.S. 395 in Mono County was closed due to heavy snow, ice and whiteout conditions along the eastern Sierra.
- The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood watch for parts of northern and central California.
- The storms won’t be enough to officially end California’s ongoing drought, but they have helped, Anderson said.
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Weather services warn of damaging winds, additional power outages
The weather service warned that damaging winds would return Sunday night across Northern California.
High wind warnings were issued by the weather service beginning Sunday night and are expected to continue through Monday.
“This will cause additional downed trees and widespread power outages, especially with such saturated soils,” the Sacramento Weather Service tweeted.
The state capital is still recovering from damaging winds after more than 230,000 customers were left in the dark early Sunday after 60 mph wind gusts knocked trees onto power lines, according to the Sacramento Municipal Utility District. As of Sunday afternoon, nearly 680 customers in Sacramento were still without were without power, according to SMUD’s power outage map.
How much rain and snow will fall?
State climatologist Michael Anderson said 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. Parts of northern and central California could see 6 to 12 inches of rain through Wednesday, the weather service said.
AccuWeather says an additional 4-8 inches of rain could fall in many of the Coast Ranges, as well as the Sierra Nevada foothills. Isolated areas could get up to 14 inches, AccuWeather said. Monday’s storm is expected to bring heavy snow in the Sierras, strong winds and a mix of heavy, wet snow and low-elevation flooding concerns into Tuesday, the weather service said.
San Francisco was expected to see another 2-4 inches of rain. In the past two weeks, more than 11 centimeters of rain have been recorded in the downtown area – six times more than normal for that period. During this stretch, the city recorded its wettest 10-day period in more than 150 years.
Heavy rain will return to parts of Southern California Monday night and Tuesday, with 1 to 2 inches of rain in the Los Angeles area and higher amounts locally, AccuWeather said.
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Why can this storm be so damaging?
AccuWeather experts say that It is the preceding conditions that could catapult the approaching storm’s damage to “extreme and historic levels.” Those conditions include torrential rains on Sunday — one thunderstorm moving into the Sacramento area produced up to half an inch of rain per hour. Localized flooding, gusty winds and lightning were in the forecast.
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The “ceasing march of atmospheric rivers” that hit the country in recent weeks swelled rivers and saturated the ground. Mammoth Mountain, a ski resort in the eastern Sierra, received nearly 10 feet of snow, the National Weather Service reported.
The fronts have been blamed for at least six deaths, authorities say.
Contributor: The Associated Press