California Braces for Another Devastating Atmospheric River, Thousands Forced to Flee

Hamza Hayat
Streets in hard-hit Monterey County were already flooded Sunday.Photo byterrywayphoto/Instagram/Reuters

California is under siege again as another powerful atmospheric river slams the state, bringing heavy rain, high winds, and the threat of landslides and flooding.

The storm is the 11th to hit the West this season, causing significant damage to areas already devastated by recent flooding. Over 30 million residents across the state are under flood alerts, and thousands have been forced to evacuate their homes.

The regions at the highest risk lie along the central California coastline from Monterey to Santa Barbara counties. Additionally, sections of the Sierra Nevada foothills close to Fresno and Bakersfield are vulnerable.

In some places, rain is expected to fall as fast as one inch per hour, resulting in flash flooding. The barrage of storms is testing the state's infrastructure, and many residents are still struggling to cope with the aftermath of last week's deadly atmospheric river.

AccuWeather meteorologists say the storm will lead to widespread travel disruptions and exacerbate ongoing flooding problems. A plume of moisture, called an atmospheric river, will move across the storm-weary state from north to south until Tuesday night, with runoff and heavy high-country snow expected to persist until at least Wednesday.

Anticipate a range of 4-8 inches of precipitation along the Sierra Nevada's western lower and intermediate elevations, with the potential for up to 12 inches under extreme conditions as per the AccuWeather Local StormMax™ forecast.

At San Francisco International Airport, the storm has resulted in noteworthy power outages and the cancellation and delay of various flights. Over 360,000 residences and businesses were without electricity as of Tuesday afternoon, with Santa Clara County bearing the brunt of the outages.
Floodwater nearly swallows a vehicle Sunday in the Monterey County community of Pajaro.Photo byCourtesy Alekz Londos

The California Governor's Office of Emergency Services reports that over 70,000 individuals were issued evacuation warnings, and nearly 17,000 were given mandatory evacuation orders as of Tuesday morning.

The risk of landslides is high, and officials are urging residents to take precautions and evacuate if necessary. In Monterey, Mayor Tyller Williamson expressed surprise at the storm's severity. "We weren't expecting it to be as bad as we're seeing it," he said. Saturated soil can't absorb much more water, and melting snow could amplify dangerous flooding, making it imperative for residents to heed evacuation orders.

The storm is expected to deposit a general 1-4 inches of rain across much of the state, except for the deserts in the southeast. For Californians, the weather has been nothing short of a nightmare, with the storm causing two deaths on Friday and leading to a number of evacuations.

The National Weather Service issued two rare flash flood emergencies in Central California, underscoring the danger posed by the atmospheric river.

The state is bracing for more bad weather, with officials warning residents to remain vigilant and prepare for the worst. The storm is a stark reminder of the ongoing impact of climate change, leading to more frequent and severe weather events across the globe. As California struggles to cope with the latest atmospheric river, it's clear that the state and its residents face an uphill battle against climate change.

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