After a powerful New Year’s storm caused landslides, power outages and road closures across California, residents faced the aftermath on Sunday as forecasters warned of even more rain in the coming days.
Strong wind and rain left thousands of homes in Northern California without power Sunday, while floodwaters from the Cosmanes River near Sacramento reached record levels and wreaked havoc, breaching three levees and flooding the area.
Flash flooding on Highway 99 and other highways south of Sacramento submerged dozens of cars near Wilton, where floodwaters breached levees. Search and rescue teams on boats and helicopters arrived to rescue the trapped motorists.
“I don’t want to use the word apocalypse, but it was ugly,” Sacramento County spokesman Matt Robinson said by phone from a section of Highway 99. “We have a lot of cars stranded.”
Capt. Parker Wilborn of the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District said downed power lines and trees that fell on homes caused further problems.
“It was a very busy night,” he said.
The county warned Sunday afternoon that floodwaters are rising around the 5 Freeway near the southern edge of suburban Sacramento.
In the late afternoon, as waters rose in the Cosmanes and Mokelumne Rivers, officials issued a mandatory evacuation order for the community of Point Pleasant, south of Elk Grove.
“Please exit the area and stay off the roads while it is still light enough to see any danger,” Sacramento officials wrote in a message on Twitter. “Take the ‘5 P’s with you: People, Pets, Medicines, Documents and Photos”.
An evacuation center was set up at the Wakeford Center on Bruceville Road in Elk Grove. “Flooding in the area is imminent,” officials warned. “After sunset the flood waters become incredibly dangerous.”
Some sunny skies brought much of the state a respite from rain on Sunday, but another atmospheric river cut through the western Pacific was poised to drench California in the coming days.
Northern California bore the brunt of the weekend. Oakland had its wettest day since 1970 with 4.75 inches of rain on Saturday. A mudslide blocked part of the 580 freeway east of Oakland.
The National Weather Service reported that San Francisco received 5.46 inches of rain on Saturday, the city’s second wettest day in more than 170 years.
The 101 Freeway in South San Francisco was closed by floodwaters as New Year’s Eve celebrations were coming out, but it reopened a few hours before midnight.
In the northern California city of Davis, many residents were still without power as winds toppled trees overnight. Residents awoke to wind howling blue skies, streets blocked by fallen branches, and Christmas reindeer and inflatable Santas scattered like toys tossed by a giant.
For much of the area, power was still out, with no indication from PG&E when it might come back on. Some residents flock to the small town center in search of a hot cup of coffee, a hot meal or a place to charge their phones. However, most businesses were closed due to power outages.
The few lucky ones who had power were full of people talking about when the power would come back on and what to do until it did.
“We’re here because we can’t open the fridge,” said Nancy Gibbs, 67, who was with her family at Burger & Brew, a restaurant next to the city’s Central Park. He said that he and his family had had dinner the night before the power went out.
While California’s drought isn’t over, the 2022 cap off rainfall has allowed at least some of the state’s major reservoirs to exceed their historical average water supplies.
State parks officials warned of safety risks in Lake Natoma from the release of water from the Folsom and Nimbus dams, as rapidly rising water levels create dangerously strong currents.
Ski resorts benefited from the weekend’s storms. Mammoth Mountain and Lake Tahoe ski resorts recorded up to 42 inches of new snow.
In Los Angeles, where heavy rain fell on New Year’s Eve, forecasters expect rain again on Monday afternoon or evening, followed by a strong Pacific storm with torrential rain and strong winds on Wednesday and Thursday.
In the 48 hours after the rain stopped before dawn on Sunday, 1.1 inches fell in downtown Los Angeles and 5.7 inches in the San Gabriel Mountains.
It was a relatively warm storm, so snow levels were about 7,000 feet, with 3 inches falling on Mount Baldy, said David Sweet, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Oxnard.
A weak storm will drop up to an inch of rain in the Los Angeles area Monday night and Tuesday, he said, and then a much stronger one — another atmospheric river — is expected Wednesday and Thursday.
“It’s an extremely powerful system,” Sweet said.
He said between 2.5 to 5 inches in low-lying areas and 5 to 7 inches in the mountains below the snow line, about 6,000 feet, are expected.
The storm could also bring winds of 50 to 70 mph, especially strong north of Los Angeles.
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