More than 100,000 people in California were left without electricity and the state declared an emergency on Wednesday as a powerful storm produced 45-foot waves at sea, dumped soaking rain on already saturated ground, and prompted warnings of floods and mudslides.
As of late Thursday night, the entire San Francisco Bay Area was still under flood warnings from the storm that was predicted to drop as much as 6 inches of rain in some areas. Santa Barbara and Ventura counties were predicted to receive the most rain in Southern California as the storm reached its peak overnight Wednesday into Thursday morning.
As a massive storm pounded much of California’s coastline on Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom authorised state National Guard units to assist with disaster response.
Areas predicted to be hit hardest by flooding and mudslides have already had fire and rescue teams set up there.
Meteorologist Cynthia Palmer of the National Weather Service’s San Francisco office advised, “If you still have power, it’s a good idea to charge your cellphone, computers, and tablets now while you can.” They should have access to up-to-date information about the storm and something to watch in case the power goes out, she advised.
The rapid decrease in atmospheric pressure that is predicted to accompany this storm has earned it the moniker “bomb cyclone.”
National Weather Service meteorologist Rick Canepa estimated that the entire event would take around 30 hours. Thursday afternoon/evening is when the rain will finally stop.
Localized areas of Northern California may receive as much as 10 inches of rain from severe weather over the next week, according to forecasts. The National Weather Service predicted that the storm on Wednesday would result in the “loss of human life” due to the downing of trees, widespread flooding, washed out roads, collapse of hillsides, delays at airports, and the like.
However, authorities stress that this isn’t the end of the risk. Other systems out at sea are also being monitored by forecasters as potential sources of additional precipitation for the region.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, extreme weather affected more than just California. On Wednesday morning, a possible tornado made contact in the Montgomery, Alabama area. Fortunately, no lives were lost, but more than fifty buildings were damaged.
Flood-related deaths confirmed in Sacramento: motorists rescued
Two more bodies were found Wednesday after flooding in a rural part of south Sacramento County, authorities said, bringing the death toll from the atmospheric river storm on New Year’s Eve to three.
The third body was found in a vehicle that was submerged in water , said Sgt. Amar Gandhi, a Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office spokesman.
Gandhi said late Wednesday night that the victim had not been identified and that no new information had been released.
During the morning, California Highway Patrol officers found the body of a woman while recovering vehicles that got stuck due to flooding.
A man’s body was found in a submerged car on Sunday. Gandhi said rescue efforts in Sacramento County are ongoing.
Many drivers were rescued from flooded roads and downed trees in other communities across Northern California.
The San Francisco Fire Department rescued a family Wednesday night after fallen trees on a city road trapped the family.
California residents face outages
According to Karla Nemeth, head of the California Department of Water Resources, when the ground is saturated by a lot of rain and there are strong gusts, trees are more prone to fall and can result in widespread power outages.
Residents were advised to prepare emergency kits and keep vital gadgets charged in case of storm-related power outages by officials and utility companies.
Wednesday night, about 178,000 households and businesses were without power, according to the outage tracking website PowerOutage.us. The state’s north coast was where the majority of disruptions were reported.
Helping homeless people from storm
Magaly Rowell waited for her bus under an umbrella at what passes for a bus shelter close to Precita Park at the base of San Francisco’s Bernal Heights district. She was braving the conditions not because of her work at a security firm, but rather because she regularly feeds the homeless at a neighbouring church, according to Rowell.
As Rowell’s umbrella was pummelling by the rain and rivers of water poured down Folsom Street, she remarked, “It’s not so bad if there’s no wind. “When the wind kicks up like it is today, it gets harder. I am concerned about the homeless. When the weather turns bad, they are the ones that suffer the most.
Evacuations ordered in coastal cities
Authorities in Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara issued evacuation orders on Wednesday because the powerful storm poses a serious risk of floods and mudslides to the coastal regions.
Due to the possibility of flooding and debris flows, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown declared during a news conference on Wednesday that mandatory evacuation orders had been issued for residents in burn scar areas.
Due to worries about possible flooding and debris flow from storm conditions, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office repeatedly issued evacuation orders for the southern areas of the county throughout the day on Wednesday.
Flight disruptions amid powerful storm
The storm is already disrupting flights in the Bay Area due to its strong winds and heavy rain, and more are expected as the storm’s peak draws near.
At San Francisco International Airport as of Wednesday afternoon, there had been 74 flight cancellations, or 8% of all flights.
According to Doug Yakel, the airport’s public information officer, 191 planes have had delays that are currently 35 minutes on average. He told USA TODAY that “delays and cancellations are a result of both the decreased ceilings and winds.”
A representative for Oakland International Airport informed USA TODAY that “our operations team is ready” with regard to regular airport operations at OAK. It is strongly advised for passengers with flights to or from Oakland to check with their airline via their mobile app or website for updates on their flights.
Travel exemptions for aircraft impacted by the “bomb cyclone” in California:
- For flights on Wednesday, Southwest Airlines is providing free rebooking for flights to and from Oakland, Sacramento, San Francisco, and San Jose. Within 14 days of the initial trip date, the rebooking must use the same city pairings and travel dates.
- For flights to or from San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, San Jose, and Fresno on Thursday and Friday, Delta Air Lines issued a travel waiver on Wednesday evening. When the new reservation is made for travel on or before January 8, the price difference will not be charged.
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Residents brace for floods
According to business co-owner Karl Aguilar, clients at Papenhausen Hardware in San Francisco were particularly concerned about flooding.
According to Aguilar, “Last week a good number of people were concentrating on the roofs – tiny leaks, windows, and things like that.” “There was a turning moment where mitigation of flooding became much more of a priority. With this specific storm, flood mitigation is everything.
Sandbags and wet/dry vacuum cleaners are available at Bulls Head restaurant’s Grace Daryanani a few doors to the east. She is hopeful that a new outside dining area would help to deflect some of the water because her space has previously flooded during severe storms.
Wind gusts as high as 80 mph
In the days before the storm, forecasters issued excessive wind and flood warnings. The upcoming “brutal” storm system “has to be taken seriously,” the National Weather Service in the Bay Area warned in an unusual warning.
The winds are currently the biggest news, according to Palmer. Winds in the 40 to 50 mph range might impact coastal areas, while gusts as high as 80 mph could hit some mountainous regions.
Severe weather, possible tornadoes in South
The South was also experiencing severe weather on Wednesday. Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina were all affected by severe weather, heavy rain, and flash floods.
At 3:14 a.m. on Wednesday, a probable tornado made landfall near east Montgomery, Alabama.
The windows on Rodney Penn’s wife’s car were broken out by a falling tree limb, but his apartment sustained no structural damage, according to Rodney Penn, who was home at the time of the storm.
It truly sounded like a thousand baseball bats were hitting the side of the house simultaneously, according to Penn.
Five counties in South Carolina were under a tornado watch on Wednesday.
What’s an atmospheric river?
The storm, which is the second of three or four that may be headed for the California coast, originates over the Pacific. Because it originates above Hawaii, it is referred to as an atmospheric river or, to use a word that was more popular a few years ago, a Pineapple Express.
When a line of warm, moist air moves from close to the islands across the Pacific Ocean to the West Coast, it creates storms that dump a lot of rain.
The water vapour turns into heavy rain when it encounters the cooler air over the western landmass. Atmospheric rivers are extensive, moving areas of the atmosphere that spread water vapour throughout a 250–375 mile broad area of the sky. They are capable of carrying more water than the Mississippi River and can reach lengths of more than 1,000 miles.