California is bracing for yet another storm system, one that is expected to bring heavy rain and snow on Tuesday and into Wednesday to a state that has been battered by storm after storm over the past few weeks.
The latest storm system is forecast to bring up to four inches of rain to parts of Southern and Central California, and up to four feet of snow in elevations above 6,000 feet, according to the National Weather Service. The merging threats of rain, snow and gusty winds up to 75 miles per hour may lead to downed trees and power lines, as well as flooding and a “significant threat of avalanches” at higher elevations, the Weather Service said.
By Tuesday morning, it was already raining in many parts of the state. Some areas had received nearly an inch of rain since midnight. Meteorologists with the Weather Service in Hanford, Calif., were keeping an eye on water levels on rivers, creeks and steams, which they said were “extremely high,” and that heavy rain below 4,000 feet could cause flooding. The heaviest rain was expected in the afternoon and evening.
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In the central part of the state, officials said they were going to door to door urging residents to evacuate in portions of Tulare County, which has been flooded in previous storms this year and where more rain is expected this week.
“We’re going to every home that we anticipate would be impacted by the waters,” Sheriff Mike Boudreaux of Tulare County said at a news conference on Sunday.
It was not clear on Monday how many people were being encouraged to leave. Last week, the Sheriff’s Office shared images of ranches and crops that were still flooded from recent storms. The county said that it was working to assess the damage and that it was seeking federal reimbursement for those who lost crops.
This winter, California has been pummeled by a series of atmospheric river storms, causing extreme snowfall and rainfall, forcing many residents to evacuate. So what are atmospheric rivers, and why do they cause so much damage? Judson Jones, a New York Times meteorologist, explains.
Sheriff Boudreaux said that he wanted to quell fears that dams in the area would not hold up to more bad weather, and that he had consulted with the Army Corps of Engineers about its capabilities ahead of the storm.
“The stability of those dams is solid,” he said. “You will see lots of water coming through the spillways, but, rest assured, the dams are in good functioning position.”
Ashton Robinson Cook, a meteorologist with the Storm Prediction Center, which is part of the National Weather Service, said that this week’s storm system was expected to have less moisture than the recent back-to-back storm systems called atmospheric rivers that brought heavy rain and flooding to Central California.
“We don’t think the rain totals will be as extreme,” Mr. Cook said on Monday. “We’re not expecting the impacts to be nearly anything like what we experienced, especially in Central California, last week.”
The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services said that residents should be prepared to evacuate if needed. It also urged them to have emergency kits ready at home and vehicles full of fuel. About a dozen swift-water rescue teams were being positioned across the state, especially in regions where flooding was a greater concern, the department said.
The storm comes as the state is trying to recover from a series of storms that have brought heavy rain and snow, causing flooding in portions of the state. It is the second snowiest season in the Central Sierras since researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, began keeping records in 1946. This season, 677 inches of snow have fallen there, the researchers said, compared to a record 812 inches in 1952.
In January, an atmospheric river prompted evacuation orders for more than 40,000 Californians and left more than 220,000 utility customers without power. That storm was part of a three-week series of atmospheric rivers that inundated much of the state, damaging infrastructure and setting off flooding.
The severe weather events in California continued into February, when storms brought heavy flooding to Los Angeles County and whiteouts at higher elevations, and into March, when Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in several counties affected by winter storms that dumped as much as 10 feet of snow in parts of Southern California, leaving some tourists and residents stranded for days.
After that storm, yet another atmospheric river hit California. It washed out portions of roadways, prompted evacuations, caused power outages — particularly in the central region — and contributed to at least one death.
Livia Albeck-Ripka contributed reporting.
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