Flooding, evacuations and mass power outages hit California amid atmospheric river storm

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

Published in Weather News

California’s 11th atmospheric river storm of the season barreled through a beleaguered state Tuesday, dropping more rain and snow, sending thousands once again scrambling for higher ground and leaving more than 300,000 without power.

More than a dozen locations along major rivers were overflowing 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 90 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, which said the storm would “create considerable to locally catastrophic flooding impacts below 5,000 feet elevation.”

About 336,000 households across the state were without power as of Tuesday afternoon, according to data compiled by the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. The majority of those households were in Santa Clara County, which had about 128,000 customers without power.

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, said Eleanor Dhuyvetter, a weather service meteorologist. Because of strong winds, about 40% of flights out of San Francisco International Airport experienced delays, and 72 had been canceled as of Tuesday afternoon.

In downtown San Francisco, a shelter-in-place order was instituted for the area around a 52-story skyscraper at 555 California St. One window was blown out amid winds of up to 50 mph and another was damaged on the 43rd floor of what was previously called the Bank of America building.


Fire officials said the gusts might have contributed to the dangerous situation.

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 because of 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 was expected to fall before midnight in the Santa Lucia Mountains, which includes part of the Salinas River watershed, Dhuyvetter said.

On Tuesday afternoon, officials were considering how to address near-overflowing levees protecting Watsonville, where evacuation orders were expanded to include the area of Corralitos Creek. All schools in the area were closed.


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