Storm-battered California – still recovering from weeks of deadly flooding, mudslides and rescue efforts – is set for more rain over the weekend.
A chain of relentless atmospheric rivers — long, narrow regions of the atmosphere that can carry moisture for thousands of miles — has turned communities into lakes, paralyzed highways and prompted the evacuation of thousands, including earlier this week . The storm killed at least 19 people.
Two more hit the state this weekend.
“This is not over; we must remain vigilant. Stay safe, prepare as necessary, and limit non-essential travel,” the governor said. Gavin Newsom said in a statement. “Floods, landslides and storms don’t care who you are or where you live – they’ll hit you just the same. We’ve lost so much in these storms and these waters – so many people.”
More than 8 million people were under flood watches Saturday night along much of the central California coastline, as well as in Sacramento and the San Joaquin Valley.
The National Weather Service said there was a marginal risk of excessive rainfall along the California coast from San Francisco to San Diego and in the mountains of Southern California, where up to 2 inches of extra rain could cause flooding and mudslides, it said.
Residents of Monterey County on California’s Central Coast were ordered to evacuate low-lying areas of the Carmel River Saturday afternoon. Sacramento County officials again ordered residents in the Wilton area to flee as the Cosumnes River was expected to rise.
“People are tired of evacuation orders. People are tired of seeing those Caltrans signs that say ‘Detour’ — they’re just generally tired,” Newsom said at a flood evacuation shelter at the Merced County Fairgrounds.
President Joe Biden on Saturday approved California’s disaster declaration request, releasing federal aid to supplement recovery efforts in areas of the state hit by storms, flooding and mudslides since Dec. 27, the White House said.
“This federal assistance is key to getting back to work so Californians can get back on their feet more quickly,” Newsom said in a statement. tweet Thank you Biden for approving the statement.
The first system of the weekend, which hit the coast of California on Saturday afternoon, is expected to move inland and bring heavy rain across the state “as another wave of Pacific moisture ahead of a major cold front,” the National Weather Service said. .
The Bureau of Meteorology said light rain was expected to continue Sunday morning before “increasing” again ahead of a second system late Sunday and early Monday.
Many regions have already seen 50 to 70 percent of their usual annual rainfall over a 16-day period ahead of the new bout of heavy rainfall.
San Francisco has had one of the 15 wettest winters on record.
Newsom said that just a few weeks ago, Southern California authorities expanded the drought emergency to millions of residents. Now, the state is flooded with rain.
“It’s estimated that 22 to 25 trillion gallons of water have fallen over the course of the past 16 to 17 days — accumulations in these atmospheric rivers that we’ve never experienced in our lifetimes,” the governor said. “The reality is that this is only one-eighth of the nine atmospheric rivers we expected.”
While total rainfall this weekend will be less than previous storms, the threshold for flooding is now much lower because the ground in many areas is too saturated to absorb any more water.
“The challenges will come quite sharply over the next few days, especially because everything is saturated, especially because the venues are overwhelmed,” Newsom said. “What may seem less important in terms of rainfall may actually be more important in terms of impacts on the ground, flooding and mudslides.”
Widespread rainfall totals for the coast and inland valleys will be between 2 and 3 inches through Monday, with 4 to 6 inches likely for the San Francisco Bay area and the nearby Santa Cruz and Santa Lucia Mountains. This could lead to some flooding as well as instances of mudslides, rocks and landslides.
River flooding is also a major problem, especially around the Russian River in Northern California and the Salinas River near Monterey.
Monterey County officials warned this week that flooding from the rising Salinas River could turn the area into an island and cut off essential services.
In eastern Merced County, crews rushed to place rocks in the Bear Creek area ahead of the storm, fearing high water conditions would continue to erode the levees and eventually cause the levees to burst in downtown Merced.
The San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Department said rescuers continued to search for Kyle Doan, 5, who was rescued from his mother by raging floodwaters on Monday after being held up by the storm on Saturday.
Water and weather conditions improved on Sunday afternoon to allow the search to continue. The sheriff’s department said continued monitoring of the river and floodwaters around San Miguel indicated a drop in water levels that would allow crews to search a new area.
The child and his mother were on their way to school Monday when floodwaters submerged their SUV. The mother managed to pull Kyle out of his car seat and grab him, but their hands slipped and they separated.
The mother was later pulled out of the water safely. But Kyle has yet to be found.
Members of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office Dive Team, Sheriff’s Search and Rescue and the California Highway Patrol Air Unit are searching for the boy. National Guard troops were previously involved in the search but were later relieved of their mission.