Californians should prepare for flooding and potential mudslides as “heavy or excessive rainfall” is expected over the weekend and into next week, forecasters warned Saturday.
As recovery efforts continue in parts of the state that was battered by storms earlier this week, the National Weather Service said in a statement. bulletin that a pair of Pacific storm systems were forecast to impact into the west this weekend “bringing heavy rain at lower elevations, significant snow on the mountains and high winds.”
The first system would approach the coast on Saturday and move inland, the bulletin said, adding that there were “multiple slight risks of excessive rainfall,” which could lead to localized instances of “urban and small stream flooding, as well as like landslides.
“More moderate showers will continue through Sunday before a second storm system approaches the coast early Monday morning,” the bulletin said.
The higher elevations of the Sierra Nevada mountains were expected to see 3 to 6 feet of snow through Monday, forecasters said. The Sierra foothills could see 2 to 3 inches of rain, leading to the possibility of mudslides and flooding, they said.
More than 22,000 California utility customers lost power Saturday night, according to poweroutage.es. The vast majority were connected to Pacific Gas & Electric, which serves a wide swath of the state from the northern tip of Southern California almost to its border with Oregon.
The Golden State has been battered by a series of storms since late December, killing at least 21 people, according to an NBC News tally.
Authorities spent the week searching 5 year old Kyle Doanwho was reported missing Monday after heavy flooding swept him away near San Miguel.
San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office tweeted that operations had to be suspended again on Saturday due to rising water levels and conditions. The decision to continue searching for Kyle “will be made on a day-to-day basis” as conditions permit, the office said.
There have been some breaks in the storm, giving residents time to assess the damage, but more rain is coming, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Saturday during a visit to Merced County, which has been hit hard by storms.
“The reality is that this is only one eighth of what we anticipate will be nine atmospheric rivers,” he said. “We’re not done.”
atmospheric rivers, a term coined by a pair of MIT scientists in 1994, are streams of water vapor that can be up to 500 miles wide and 2,000 miles long. They carry an estimated 25 times the water equivalent of the Mississippi River at 10,000 feet above the ground.
“By some estimates, 20 to 25 trillion gallons of water that fell over the course of the last 16, 17 days are piling up these atmospheric rivers, the likes of which we have not experienced in our lifetimes,” Newsom said.
The governor blamed climate change, which has fueled weather extremes, including intense storms, while slightly but crucially raising temperatures across the state. He said earth scientists investigating the impact of global warming have long predicted such extreme and deadly winter weather.
“None of this is a surprise,” Newsom said.
The number of atmospheric rivers that have affected California in recent weeks has not been determined, and some of the storms may end up being counted differently, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Ryan Kittell.
Newsom and other state and federal officials have called on residents to “stay tuned” and avoid complacency as the latest weather systems approach.
“I know how fatigued everyone is,” Newsom said in a speech during a visit Friday to the coastal enclave of Montecito in Santa Barbara County that was evacuated earlier this week.
“Just keep a little more vigilance over the course of the next weekend,” he said.
His visit came on the fifth anniversary of the landslide that killed 23 people and destroyed more than 100 homes in the upscale community.
Speaking in Merced County on Saturday, Newsom thanked members of the California National Guard for cleaning up a sump that was built after the mudslide to divert rain. He asked people to use “common sense” and obey the instructions of law enforcement officials.
Nancy Ward, director of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, echoed Newsom’s message and urged people to be cautious.
“People will become complacent, but the ground is saturated. It is extremely, extremely dangerous,” Ward said at a news conference. “And that water can continue to rise long after the storms have passed.”
The National Weather Service issued a flood warning Saturday for portions of the Sacramento River, where the Tehama Bridge reached flood stage and Ord Ferry was expected to rise above flood stage by late afternoon.
Parts of Monterey and Santa Cruz counties were under mandatory evacuation Saturday night, authorities in both jurisdictions said. The orders covered low-lying areas prone to flooding.
A collapsed road Saturday in a pile of asphalt near the coastal town of Pescadero, south of Half Moon Bay, authorities said.
In Napa County, motorists were told to avoid northbound Hwy 29 due to flooding.
Damage assessments from the recent storms, which have already begun, are expected to exceed $1 billion after roofs were blown off homes, cars were submerged and trees were uprooted in parts of the state.
In southern California, authorities determined that a storm-related sewage spill into the Ventura River was much larger than initially thought. Two Ojai Valley Sanitation District sewer lines damaged on Jan. 9 spilled more than 14 million gallons, the Ventura County Division of Environmental Health said Thursday. Warning signs have been posted along the river and beaches.
Elsewhere, residents tried to salvage belongings and rescue teams pulled survivors from under collapsed homes Friday after a storm system spawned tornadoes and killed at least nine people as it tore through parts of Georgia and Alabama.
The widespread destruction became visible a day after violent storms tossed mobile homes into the air, hurled uprooted trees at buildings, snapped trees and utility poles and derailed a freight train.