A new atmospheric river flows into swampy California
WATSONVILLE, Calif. (AP) — Forecasters warned of more flooding, potentially damaging winds and difficult travel conditions on mountain highways as a new atmospheric river moved into waterlogged California early Tuesday.
Rainfall was initially light as the system moved into northern and central areas. But the National Weather Service said it was intensifying and the heaviest rainfall was still out to sea.
The system was expected to get a quick hit, moving quickly from north to south. But authorities are concerned the runoff could cause flooding because California’s unusually wet winter has left the soil saturated.
This winter, the state was hit by 10 previous atmospheric rivers, long plumes of moisture from the Pacific Ocean, and powerful storms driven by arctic air that produced blizzards. on the east coast the beginning of a winter storm on Tuesday, heavy sleet caused a plane to skid off the runway, closing hundreds of schools, canceling flights and causing thousands of power outages in parts of the Northeast.
In California, more dangerous flooding is expected on the central coast, where the dam was breached when the Pahara River swelled with runoff from the atmospheric river last week.
The first breach in the Pahara River dam has grown to at least 400 feet (120 meters) since it failed late Friday, officials said. More than 8,500 people were forced to evacuate and about 50 people had to be rescued when the water rose that night.
However, some remained in Pahara, an unincorporated community known for its strawberry crops that is now mostly flooded. A large Latino community of agricultural workers is already struggling to find food with so many roads and businesses closed in the wake of the storm.
“Some people have nowhere to go, and maybe that’s why there are still people around,” resident Jorbelit Rincon said Monday. “They hardly know where to go and they have no money to provide for themselves.”
The second breach opened another 100 feet (30.48 meters) of levee closer to the Pacific coast, providing a “safety valve” for floodwaters to retreat near the river’s mouth, officials said Monday during a news conference.
Built in the late 1940s for flood protection, the levee has been a hazard for decades, with several breaches in the 1990s. In January, an emergency repair of part of the berm was carried out. The $400 million renovation is slated to begin in the next few years.
Along the Southern California coast, evacuation orders were set to go into effect at 8 a.m. Tuesday in Santa Barbara County in several areas that have been burned by wildfires in recent years. Burned soil can be impermeable, increasing the risk of flash flooding and debris flows such as downed trees, the National Weather Service said.
Water from the new storm likely spilled over the Pahara River Dam, but crews were working to keep the breach from widening, said Shawna Murray of the Monterey County Water Resources Agency. Over the weekend, crews had to build access roads to reach the breach site and haul in rocks and boulders to plug the gap.
The river separates Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, about 70 miles (110 kilometers) south of San Francisco. Several roads were closed, including a section of Coastal Highway 1, the main route between the two counties.
Monterey County officials also warned that the Salinas River could cause significant flooding of roads and farmland, cutting off the Monterey Peninsula from the rest of the county. The city of Monterey and other communities are located on the peninsula.
Sheriff’s Deputy Keith Boyd said first responders have rescued about 170 people trapped in the evacuation district since Friday, including a woman and her child who got stuck trying to drive through high water.
A sheriff’s deputy said 20 to 40 people were trapped Monday near the Salinas River because roads were impassable for rescuers.
As of Monday afternoon, authorities had not received any reports of deaths or missing people related to the storm.
Wine and agricultural experts in the region said they are concerned about the impact of the storms on crops – both those in the ground that are currently submerged and those that need to be planted for the next growing season.
Carla Loreto, who works at a Pajaro gas station, said she worries about the damage the flood will cause to area farmers.
“The fields are flooded right now,” she said Monday. – Perhaps there is no work there now. This year, probably no strawberries, no blackberries, no blueberries.”