Atmospheric river: 2 dead, nearly 10,000 under evacuation orders as California floods intensify

(CNN) At least two people have died as a result of ongoing storms flooding California, and nearly 10,000 residents are under evacuation orders, officials said, as intense flooding threatens several coastal counties.

U powerful storms brought heavy rainfall to all central and northern parts of the state, prompting the Weather Forecast Center to issue a Level 4 of 4 excessive precipitation warning in the area.

Meanwhile, the state of emergency declaration requested by Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday night was approved by President Joe Biden, clearing the way for financial aid to respond to the storm’s onslaught and recovery, said Nancy Ward, director of the state’s Office of Emergency Services. .

About 25 million people are under flood warnings issued by the National Weather Service, and more than 25,000 are without power, according to.

Some isolated areas of the state received more than a foot of rain, according to the National Weather Service, as the heaviest rain will move south and decrease in intensity tonight and overnight. But the rain will continue through the weekend and could lead to more flooding concerns.

As residents of many California mountain communities They remain trapped by snow from back-to-back winter stormsanother significant atmospheric river event is expected to impact the region early next week.

U National Water Center said: “Multiple rounds of precipitation in addition to melting snow will provide the potential for significant rises along streams and rivers, with widespread flooding impacts possible through next week.”

Two deaths have been confirmed and about 9,400 residents are under evacuation orders, Ward said at a news conference Friday.

Flash flooding is expected to be a particular concern in the central California coast at the foot of the Sierra Nevada in the next six to eight hours, David Lawrence from the National Weather Service said. More than a dozen shelters have been opened in nine counties to house those forced from their homes, Ward added.

CalTrans, the state’s transportation department, has about 4,000 crew members working 12-hour shifts during this weather event, already clearing downed trees and clearing drainage channels to minimize flooding. deputy director John McKeever said. The California National Guard deployed 36 high-water vehicles to respond to rescues as well, added Cal Guard’s David Kauffman.

In Fresno County, three elderly women, including a 104-year-old, were rescued after being trapped inside a home, Fresno County Sheriff John Zanoni said. As of Friday afternoon, flood waters in the county had “raised considerably” and an evacuation order was put in place for all residents, according to the sheriff’s office.

The worst rainfall and the most significant impacts are expected to persist until Friday. Hourly rainfall rates will steadily increase in intensity across California through Friday morning, potentially reaching 1 inch per hour.

Part of the Sierra Nevada above 8,000 feet could be hit with 8 feet of snow. Streams and streams in the Sierra Nevada foothills remain the most vulnerable areas to flooding from rain and snowmelt, the Weather Forecast Center said.

A person walks as snow falls over snowbanks accumulated from previous storms during another winter storm in the Sierra Nevada mountains on March 10, 2023 in Mammoth Lakes, California.

A separate system will also deliver snow to a large area of ​​the central United States with winter weather alerts in place Friday from South Dakota to Connecticut. The storm has already produced scattered snowfall totals between 2 and 5 inches, with an area along the Illinois-Wisconsin border between 6 and 8 inches.

In Minneapolis, up to 2 inches of snow could fall on top of the 2.1 inches already on the ground. And in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, about 4 inches of snow has already fallen with the possibility of another 5 inches coming today.

Heavy snow overnight in Wisconsin knocked out power to nearly 110,000 customers, according to PowerOutage.usincluding about 89,000 in Milwaukee County.

California residents trapped, videos show raging waters

As of Friday, 34 of California’s 58 counties are under a state of emergency issued by the governor’s office because of previous storms and the threat of severe weather this week. The state also activated its flood operations center Thursday morning.

A video captured by a Springville resident in Tulare County from his car on Friday showed floodwaters rushing under a bridge hitting a home.

“I don’t look good in Springville,” Brian Duke captioned the video posted on Facebook. “The authorities are evacuating everyone along the river. It’s getting worse by the minute.”

The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office he said Friday night He was receiving reports of widespread flooding, collapsed bridges, downed trees and split roads, urging residents to take the storm seriously and follow officials’ orders.

About 700 residents in Soquel, California, located in Santa Cruz County, are trapped after a pipe failure led to intense flooding and the collapse of the only road that connects the community to the rest of the region, Steve Wiesner, Santa Cruz County assistant director of public works. , he told CNN.

Soquel resident Molly Watson shared a photo with CNN showing a large section of road washed away by floodwaters in the town. The cracked pavement appears to be sinking into the water in a hurry as emergency crews stand on one stretch of road and residents on the other.

“This is the only road that leads into town,” said Watson. “Now we are an island.”

Residents of Soquel, California are trapped after intense flooding caused the area’s main road to collapse.

Residents remain isolated until a new crossing can be prepared, which could take days, Wiesner said.

One person died and another was injured when the roof of a warehouse partially collapsed in Oakland early Friday morning in what is likely a weather-related incident, a fire official said.

In the community of Felton also in Santa Cruz County, resident Tom Fredericks lamented fatigue from the unrelenting series of severe storms since the beginning of the year.

“We’ve been working every week, every week when we can since then,” Fredericks he told CNN affiliate KGO. “It’s just starting now to feel like before the storms. So this is kind of discouraging to be facing everything again.”

From late December to January, many areas across the state were flooded torrential rain from atmospheric rivers which lasted for consecutive days. The rainfall caused deadly flooding, mudslides and damaged critical infrastructure that has yet to be repaired in some places, raising the potential danger associated with this week’s storm.

This week atmospheric rivers — which are long, narrow bands of moisture in the atmosphere that carry warm air and water vapor from the tropics — could be even more threatening because of their warmth, forecasters said.

Rainfall totals through Sunday morning could range from 1.5 to 3 inches for most urban areas with between 3 and 6 inches in the coastal paths and inland mountains. Up to 8 inches over the Santa Cruz Mountains and locally up to 12 inches on favored peaks and higher terrain of the Santa Lucia Mountains.

The impending forecast has led some ski resorts to announce closures. Kirkwood Mountain Resort said it would not open Friday, as would Northstar California Resort and Heavenly Resort in South Lake Tahoe, on Nevada’s border with central California.

CNN Meteorologist Robert Shackelford and CNN Taylor Romine and Rebekah Riess contributed to this report.

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