SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – A massive storm hit Southern California after flooding highways, falling trees and causing mud flows in areas burned by recent fires in the northern part of the state.
Heavy rains and strong winds accompanied the weekend arrival of the atmospheric river, a long and wide plume of moisture drawn from the Pacific Ocean. The National Weather Service’s office in Sacramento warned of “potentially historic rain.”
Flooding in the San Francisco Bay Area, street closures in Berkeley, flooding of the Oakland Bay Bridge toll plaza and river flooding in Napa and Sonoma counties were reported. Power pylons were broken and tens of thousands of people in the North Bay were left without electricity.
By Sunday morning, Mount Tamalpais north of San Francisco had recorded 15 centimeters of precipitation in the previous 12 hours, the weather service said.
“In some of our high altitude areas, there may be 6, 7, 8 inches of rain before we are all done,” said weather service meteorologist Sean Miller.
About 150 miles (241 km) north, the California Highway Patrol closed a section of State Highway 70 in Butte and Plumas Counties due to numerous landslides in Dixie Fire’s massive burn scar.
“We already had several collisions this morning due to aquaplaning of vehicles, falling trees and flooding on several roads,” the Oroville Highway Patrol office tweeted on Sunday. “If you can stay home and away from the roads today, please. If you are on the road, be extremely careful. “
The same storm system also hit Oregon and Washington state, causing power outages, affecting tens of thousands of people. Two people died when a tree fell on a car in the Greater Seattle area. Eastside Fire & Rescue responded to a loss of life near Preston, Washington, about 20 miles east of Seattle.
The State Department of Transportation said Highways 16 and 20 in California’s Colus and Yolo Counties were closed several miles due to landslides.
Burnout remains a problem as land devoid of vegetation cannot absorb heavy rainfall so quickly, increasing the likelihood of flash floods.
“If you are in close proximity to a recent burn scar and haven’t done so yet, prepare now for likely debris streams,” the Sacramento Weather Service tweeted. “If the local authorities ordered you to evacuate or you feel threatened, do not be afraid to do so. If it’s too late to evacuate, climb to a higher level. “
South of San Francisco, in the Santa Cruz Mountains, an evacuation order was in force over fears that several inches of rain could cause debris streams in the CZU Lightning Complex fire scar as the storm advanced into early Monday. Farther south, in parts of western Santa Barbara County, evacuation warnings have been reformed in the area burned down by the Alisal fire this month.
Strong winds were also expected with gusts of up to 60 mph (97 km / h) in the windiest locations in Northern California. At over 9,000 feet (2,745 meters) in the Sierra Nevada, snow can fall 18 inches or more from Sunday through Monday morning.
Recent storms have helped contain the country’s largest wildfires this year. But it remains to be seen whether wet weather will affect the drought that has hit California and the western United States. California’s climate is now hotter and drier, which means rain and snow that has fallen is likely to evaporate or be absorbed into the soil.
California’s 2021 water year, which ended September 30, was the second most drought on record, and last year’s fifth on record. Some of the state’s most important reservoirs are at record lows.