A raging storm that was triggered by a “bomb cyclone” over the Pacific Ocean landed in drought-stricken Northern California on Sunday, blowing up a wide swath of the west coast with heavy rain, damaging winds, floods and mudslides.
Floods over the San Francisco Bay Area closed streets in Berkeley and flooded the Bay Bridge toll plaza in Oakland. The National Weather Service in Sacramento warned of “potentially historic” rain for the city center.
“Conditions will continue to worsen,” the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center warned on Twitter. “Strong winds, high surfing and heavy rain will lead to major impacts. Heavy snow in the Sierra starts tonight.”
The storm was predicted to hit some areas with a foot of rain while falling up to 8 feet of snow over the mountains, forecasters said. Areas burned by forest fires were vulnerable to mudslides, and waste streams forced roadblocks.
“If you are near a burn year, it may be too late to evacuate,” the Sacramento Weather announced on Twitter. “Do not attempt to cross a stream of dirt. Take shelter on the highest floor of your home.”
ONE bomb cyclone formed when the air pressure drops rapidly as the storm explosively intensifies. The phenomenon drew deep tropical moisture from the Pacific Ocean and created an “atmospheric river” AccuWeather Meteorologist Jon Porter said. He described the river as a “fiery serpent of moisture in the sky” capable of triggering intense rain and mountain snow.
The storm was most severe in northern and central California and part of southern Oregon, with the greatest intensity lasting until Monday, he said. Precipitation of up to 2 inches per hour can come “too fast and too furious,” which could lead to severe flooding and mudslides that could threaten life and property, Porter added.
The National Weather Service Bay Area aired an abundance of flood watches, saying on Twitter: “Headaches will be 2020 burn years, but urban and small streams are likely to flood when heavy rainfall passes Sunday afternoon and night.”
“Floods, landslides, chain checks, overturned vehicles – and it was just this morning,” he said. California Transportation Department tweeted Sunday. “This atmospheric river storm is expected to intensify with heavy rain and significant snow into tomorrow. DO NOT drive if you are not going to.”
Parts of Oregon were under siege by strong winds and heavy rain. Pacific Gas & Electric said it had thousands of workers ready to respond to interruptions.
Southern California was not exempt. Parts of western Santa Barbara County were under an evacuation warning in the area recently burned by the Alisal fire, now containing 97%, but not before it burned through 25 square miles.
The region needs rain. California Gov. Gavin Newsom just last week declared a drought emergency for the whole state with reference to three years of drought throughout the West.
Seventeen major wildfires are burning in California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Forest fires have burned nearly 2 million acres in California alone by 2021. The storms will effectively end the fire season in large parts of the region, AccuWeather’s Porter said.
“This rainfall comes about a month before the average and will be very welcome to fight the remaining fires, especially in Northern California,” Porter said.
This news develops into the evening.For an update later tonight, sign up for the Evening Briefing.
Snow will begin to fall at altitudes above 8,000 feet, but then fall to altitudes around 6,000 feet by Monday, AccuWeather said.
“Given the amount of moisture targeting northern and central Sierra Nevada, 60-100 inches of snow can easily reach levels above 8,000 feet,” said AccuWeather Senior Storm Warning Meteorologist Rich Putnam.
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