The biggest storm of the season is forecast to sweep across California soon and emergency officials are warning residents about its potential dangers.
“A strong atmospheric river event will impact the state of California beginning this evening and at least through Tuesday,” said Eric Schoening, an emergency response specialist with the National Weather Service. “We are expecting significant impacts through heavy rainfall, heavy mountain snowfall and strong gusty winds.”
The biggest storm of the season is forecast to hit Northern and Southern California
Schoening said the worst part of the storm is expected to occur Sunday through Tuesday, causing widespread flooding across California, including the Central Valley, the Mountain Region, the Bay Area and, most importantly, Southern California.
Officials advised residents to be prepared.
“These next storms are going to be impactful and dangerous,” said Nancy Ward, director of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.
Ward said flooding is being monitored.
“They pose a threat to our state and they are the most dangerous natural disasters we have – more people are killed each year from storm damage and flooding than from wildfires,” Ward said.
According to Ward, more than 8,500 officers from the California Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), California Highway Patrol (CHP), Cal Fire, CalTrans, Conservation Corps and the National Guard have been deployed for the upcoming storm, he said. He said shelters and millions of sandbags were supplied for about 40,000 people across California.
“As the storm system approaches the state, we encourage all of you to do what you can and do your part in keeping yourself and your loved ones safe,” Ward said. “Stay informed by signing up for our emergency alerts, including warnings and evacuations.”
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Officials warned to avoid unnecessary travel during the peak of the storm and to avoid going outside during high winds due to the risk of being struck by debris.
“High winds can cause power outages so keep batteries for your equipment. Plan for other alternative energy sources, Ward said. “(Also) do not walk, swim or drive in flood water.”
Officials say six inches of water can drown an adult, 12 inches of water can sweep away vehicles and two feet of water can shake an SUV or truck.
Carla Nemeth, director of the California Department of Water Resources, said the agency is currently focused on providing “flood-fighting” materials such as millions of sandbags to California residents.
“In addition to localized flooding from heavy rainfall, we are focused on ensuring river systems receive the flood assistance they need,” Nemeth said. “We’re looking at 16 river systems that we think will need flood monitoring.”
Some rivers in California are expected to reach flood stage, including the Russian River in Mendocino County, the Carmel River in Monterey County, the Guadalupe River in Santa Clara County, the Ventura River in Ventura County and the San Diego River in San Diego County.
“If you’re in the Central Valley or Sacramento Valley, you may notice that our flood systems have been activated. What’s different this year from last year is that we have full reservoirs and those reservoirs have already started releasing flood water to make room for the incoming flow, so you’ll see those flood bypasses activated. Have started happening. “The system is working as intended,” Nemeth said.
California Health and Human Services Director Kim Johnson said the state has partnered with the American Red Cross to prioritize support for the homeless, elderly and medically vulnerable, disabled and populations living in congregate settings.
“We are collectively preparing the most vulnerable people in our communities for the coming season,” Johnson said.
California officials said they “do not want to see any loss of life” and that they are in contact with the federal government for additional assistance. Visit caloes.ca.gov for updates on emergency hurricane preparedness.