California on High Alert: Fresh Atmospheric River Threatens Flood-Ravaged Areas

This week, the West Coast of the United States is expected to experience more intense precipitation and snowfall.

On Sunday (Feb. 18, 2024), an additional atmospheric river started to pound California, posing a risk of flooding, mudslides, and maybe tornadoes.

The big picture: As rains started to fall on Sunday afternoon in the northern coastal areas and proceeded southward by the evening, flood watches were issued for a large portion of California’s coast.

  • “A couple of inches of rain can be expected to fall across the lower elevations of northern California while coastal central to southern California is expected to receive the heaviest rains totaling a few inches through the next couple of days,” the National Weather Service said in a prediction meeting on Monday.
  • “These rains are expected to raise of risk of flash flooding to moderate levels in the affected areas.”

California on High Alert Fresh Atmospheric River Threatens Flood-Ravaged Areas

Notable: According to the NWS’s Weather Prediction Centre, soils in Southern and Central California “remain well saturated” from Saturday’s lesser rainfall and precipitation from earlier days.

Context: An atmospheric river earlier this month caused historic rainfall and mudslides in Los Angeles, and parts of California are still recovering.

Through Wednesday, the area should expect moderate to heavy rainfall, high-elevation snow, strong winds, flooding, and potential power outages, according to the NWS’s L.A. office.

Current situation: The State Operations Centre has been activated by California Governor Gavin Newsom’s office to assist in coordinating the state, local, and federal response to the potentially “significant rainfall and snow throughout much of the state, as well as potential for thunderstorms, debris flows, and mudslides.” This was announced on Sunday.

  • According to the NWS WPC, there is a moderate chance of excessive rainfall and flash floods on Sunday in the central and southern California mountain ranges of Santa Lucia and Santa Ynez.
  • Based on its severe thunderstorm risk scale, the WPC assigned a Level 2 out of 5 rating to parts of the Central Valley of California. Sacramento is included in this.

Over the weekend, officials in Santa Barbara County issued evacuation warnings citing the possibility of “multiple rounds of moderate to heavy showers, with a chance of thunderstorms.”

  • Just before 8:30 p.m. local time, the NWS released a statement indicating that rainfall rates were rising to 0.30-0.50 inches per hour over Santa Barbara and surrounding areas, as well as the Santa Ynez Range.

San Francisco officials declared they would give away free sandbags to citizens and businesses in the city, where a flood watch was in effect from Sunday morning through Wednesday.

  • On Sunday night, reports of 35 to 50 mph wind gusts were received all around the Bay Area.

“Meanwhile, the Sierra Nevada and Mount Shasta will be impacted by an onslaught of heavy snow on Monday, with new snow likely totaling a few feet through the next couple of days,” according to the National Weather Service.

Between the lines: Water is channeled from the subtropics to temperate regions via atmospheric rivers, which are thousands of mile-long thoroughfares of condensed water vapor in the intermediate atmosphere.

There are numerous articles like this one where you may get updates and more information:

According to studies, climate change is increasing the amount of moisture in atmospheric rivers, which raises the amount of rain and snowfall.
Next up: “By Tuesday, both the intensity and coverage of the precipitation are expected to decrease as the system pushes farther inland and weakens,” the National Weather Service stated.

“Nevertheless, much of California will likely receive light to moderate precipitation on Tuesday as southern California is expected to see steadier rainfall moving in.”

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