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‘Atmospheric river’ brings floods, mudslides


More rain, snow and wind hit the West on Wednesday, flooding roads, toppling trees and cutting power while raising threats of debris flows from wildfire scars. But while the weather impacted travel, some tourists were undaunted.(Feb. 13)

An “atmospheric river” brought torrential rain across much of California Thursday, flooding roads and causing dangerous mudslides in areas already swollen from days of rain and still recovering from devastating wildfires last year.

Up to 3 inches of rain will fall along the coast from San Diego to the Oregon border, AccuWeather said. Some mountain slopes could see twice that; 8 inches or more was possible in mountainous areas.

High in the Sierra, already overwhelmed with snow, up to 7 feet of snow could fall.

“Enough rain will fall in the major cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, San Diego and others to lead to incidents of urban flooding,” AccuWeather senior meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said. “In the mountains and canyons, roads will close “due to flash flooding, mudslides and other debris flows.”

‘Sky rivers’

These rivers in the sky are responsible for up to 65 percent of the western USA’s extreme rain and snow events, a 2017 study said.

Made visible by clouds, these ribbons of water vapor known as atmospheric rivers extend thousands of miles from the tropics to the western USA. They provide the fuel for the massive rainstorms and subsequent floods along the U.S. West Coast, like the one hammering California today.

This one stretched from Hawaii to California, the National Weather Service said, thus the nickname “Pineapple Express.”

Storm blasts West

The system also brought high winds. Gusts reaching 60 mph are likely over parts of Southern California, AccuWeather said. Power was out to more than 100,000 homes and businesses across the state.

California, coming off of years of drought, has been awash in rain in recent months. On Wednesday, San Francisco was hit with a “hefty 2.49” inches of rain, the 5th-wettest for any February day on record, the weather service said.

“There’s a lot of standing water and some flooded roadways,” Caltran’s Bay-area director Tony Tavares said. “Please drive carefully and never drive through flooded roadways.”

Caltrans was reporting road closures in San Diego. Mandatory evacuations were in effect for areas blow Los Angeles recovering from wildfires. 

Tim Suber said his hillside neighborhood in Lake Elsinore has been evacuated countless times since last summer’s wildfire .

“I’m not going this time,” Suber said after Riverside County sheriff’s deputies warned him that he could end up trapped if roads flood. “I’ve got 35 chickens and a daughter who won’t leave them behind. So we’re staying.”

After smashing into California, the storm will continue to slide east across the nation, spreading snow and rain across the central Plains, Midwest and the mid-Atlantic states Friday and Saturday.

The Weather Chanel has named it Winter Storm Nadia. No other private weather companies, nor the weather service, uses that name.

Contributing: The Associated Press



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