The latest in a series of powerful storm fronts atmospheric rivers California was hit again on Saturday as the state continued to battle heavy rains and flooding that caused widespread damage and forced thousands to evacuate.
Governor Gavin Newsom said at a news conference Saturday in Merced County, California thunderstorms responsible for at least 19 deaths.
A series of atmospheric rivers – long regions in the atmosphere that transport water – are responsible for the storms that have hit California since December 26. Newsom Saturday estimated California was hit by eight atmospheric rivers, possibly a ninth.
The governor also appreciated it 22 to 25 trillion gallons of rain has fallen on the state since the storms hit a few weeks ago.
“The accumulation of these atmospheric rivers, the like of which we have not yet experienced in our lifetime. The reality is that this is only the eighth of what we expect to be nine atmospheric rivers,” Newsom told reporters. “We’re not done yet. I know in any challenging time there comes a point where people get tired… I’m just praying for all of us that we stay alert and sane for the next 24-48 hours.”
President Biden late Saturday night declared a major disaster in California. Among other things, according to the declaration, federal funding will be available to residents and businesses in Merced, Sacramento and Santa Cruz counties to pay for recovery efforts such as home repairs. Assistance may consist of grants or loans.
Crews on Saturday were forced to suspend the search for a a 5-year-old boy disappeared that was swept away by flooding Monday in San Marcos Creek, near San Miguel, due to rising water levels and inclement weather, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office said.
Just over 26,000 customers in California were without power Saturday afternoon, according to an outage tracking website poweroutage.us.
Flood warnings were issued for the region north of San Francisco Bay, including Marin, Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties.
Warnings were issued in some counties, including San Mateo and Santa Cruz, where the tiny community of Felton Grove along the San Lorenzo River was ordered to evacuate. An evacuation order was also issued for residents of the Wilton area in semi-rural southeast Sacramento County. The authorities cited the threat of flooding from the Kosumn River.
“Flooding is imminent,” according to Sacramento County Emergency Services tweeted.
Residents of several areas of San Benito County, located south of San Jose, were also ordered to evacuate.
The swollen Salinas River swamped farmland in Monterey County, and to the east a flood warning was in effect for Merced County in the agricultural Central Valley.
Slippery roads, snow, and white picket fences hit the highways in the Sierra Nevada.
UC Berkeley’s Central Sierra Snow Lab said on Twitter Saturday morning that 21.3 inches of snow had fallen in 24 hours, with a snowpack of about 10 feet expected to grow several more feet by Monday.
An avalanche warning has been issued for the central Sierra, including most of Lake Tahoe.
In Santa Barbara County, where a massive debris flow swept through the town of Montecito on Jan. 9, 2018, killing 23 people, residents were told that no new evacuations were expected but to be prepared.
Montecito and surrounding areas were recently ordered to evacuate last Monday, the fifth anniversary of what locals remembered as the “9/1 Mudslide.” But the community, located in the foothills of the coastal mountains, escaped serious damage.
California is expected to have dry days next week starting Tuesday.
“Then the question becomes, are we going to stay dry for the rest of the month?” says the San Francisco Bay Area Weather Service.