Flood fears across California as another atmospheric river storm hits, 11th this season

Ruben Vives, Terry Castleman, Hayley Smith and Susanne Rust, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Weather News

PAJARO, Calif. — California’s 11th atmospheric river storm of the season barreled through a beleaguered state Tuesday, dropping more rain and snow and sending thousands of residents once again scrambling for higher ground.

At least 16 locations along major rivers were overflowing their banks as the high-impact storm moved south through the state, including areas along the Salinas, Sacramento and Merced rivers. The Pajaro River, which suffered a levee breach from a similar storm last week, continued to spill water onto neighboring farmlands and communities.

At least 70 flood watches, warnings and advisories were in effect statewide, as were avalanche warnings in portions of Mono and Inyo counties and the Lake Tahoe area, according to the National Weather Service.

“The storm will create considerable to locally catastrophic flooding impacts below 5,000-feet elevation and is expected to shift south across much of the California Coast, Central Valley and the Sierra Nevada foothills” Tuesday into Wednesday, the agency said.

More than 500 people took refuge from the storms in about 30 American Red Cross-affiliated shelters Monday night, said Nicole Maul, a spokeswoman for the agency.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, the storm was causing minor urban flooding, road closures, downed trees and gusty winds of up to 50 mph, according to meteorologist Eleanor Dhuyvetter. A ground stop was ordered at San Francisco International Airport on Tuesday morning due to strong winds, and a gust of 82 mph was measured just south of Los Gatos.


In Monterey County, where a farm town was already inundated by the Pajaro River, more than 10,000 residents were under evacuation warnings and orders due to the surging Salinas River. County officials feared that more flooding could lead to significant crop loss in the heavily agricultural region.

Up to 6 inches of rain could fall before midnight in the Santa Lucia Mountains, which includes part of the Salinas River watershed, Dhuyvetter said.

“The chances for the Santa Lucias to still get a good amount of rain do exist, so we could still see some impacts along Salinas River,” she said. “We’re just going to have to watch and see how much rain does fall across those mountains.”

Officials were considering manually breaching a section of the Pajaro River as flooding continued to put pressure on the levees protecting the city of Watsonville, where evacuation orders were expanded Tuesday to include the area of Corralitos Creek. All schools in the area were closed.


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