The eleventh atmospheric river storm of the season hit California
Another atmospheric river swallowed California on Tuesday, worsening the pressures facing residents still trying to recover from the relentless storms.
The latest storm forced the evacuation of nearly 27,000 people due to the risk of flooding and caused landslides and flooding in 16 major rivers in the state.
On the Pajara River, a broken dam caused by a similar storm on Friday was overwhelmed again, flooding farms, roads and inundating the entire town of Pajara, forcing thousands of residents to flee.
Atmospheric rivers are so named because they are caused by narrow, river-like formations of concentrated moisture in the atmosphere. They can dump huge amounts of rain, causing floods and landslides.
Another atmospheric river engulfed California on Tuesday, exacerbating the pressure facing residents still trying to recover from relentless storms
Parts of downtown Pajara remain flooded after a levee breached on the Pajara River in Monterey County Friday following another storm
The atmospheric river caused major flooding in more than 16 places in the state
Atmospheric rivers are so named because they are caused by narrow, river-like formations of concentrated moisture in the atmosphere (shown in pink)
California’s latest atmospheric river is expected to continue to affect the state through Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service
“Life and property are at great risk Tuesday through Wednesday,” the weather service said in its forecast for California, warning residents to expect flash flooding in areas that don’t normally see it.
Devastating 70 mph winds blew out windows and there were many reports of falling trees.
Power outages affected more than 330,000 utility customers in the north and central areas, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks outages across the country.
Crews raced to stabilize a breached Pajara River dam on Tuesday, placing rocks and boulders to finish filling the gap that opened on March 10. The broken dam is about 70 miles south of San Francisco.
Tuesday’s storm initially spread light to moderate rain across the north and center of the state. The National Weather Service said the storm was moving faster than expected and that most of the precipitation would move south.
“Even a small amount of rain can potentially have a bigger impact,” Shawna Murray of the Monterey County Water Resources Agency said during a news conference Tuesday.
Strong winds damaged the windows of a San Francisco high-rise, sending rain pelting the glass and forcing people to evacuate the building in the financial district.
No damage was immediately reported. A wind gust of 74 mph was recorded at the city airport, the weather service said.
The California plate is visible in an area affected by flooding after days of heavy rains in Pahara
A breached dam is being repaired on the Pahara River in Monterey County
Laundry carts stand in floodwater near the flooded Pajaro Laundromat on March 14
A military vehicle drives through floodwaters in Pajaro, California
Floodwaters surround farm equipment in the community of Pahara in Monterey County
California has had 10 atmospheric rivers this winter, as well as strong storms driven by arctic air that have produced blizzards.
In addition to the evacuation orders, more than 71,600 people were under evacuation warnings and 546 people were in shelters as of Tuesday morning, said Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for the California Office of Emergency Management. Updated figures were not immediately available.
More flooding is expected on the central coast, where the Pahara Dam has given way. As of Monday, authorities had not received any reports of deaths or missing people related to the storm.
Pahara is an unincorporated community known for its strawberry crops, and it was almost completely flooded. More than 8,500 people have been ordered to evacuate and nearly 250 people have been rescued by emergency services since Friday.
“We live seven houses from the river and the water level was six feet, probably seven,” said evacuee Andres Garcia. “So we must have lost everything.”
The weather service predicts that there will be an atmospheric river continue to “produce numerous heavy rains and mountain snow for the central/southern parts of the state through tonight.”
It went on to say: “Heavy rain combined with melting snow below 5,000 feet is likely to result in widespread flooding, particularly in areas still extremely vulnerable from recent rainfall.
“Significant effects of flooding are possible. Widespread flood watches, warnings and advisories are in effect, along with a high risk (level 4/4) of excessive rainfall for parts of the southern Sierra Nevada foothills and central/southern California coast.”
As of Monday, authorities had not received any reports of deaths or missing people related to the storm
A couple removes coins from washing machines at the flooded Pajaro Coin Laundromat
California’s National Weather Service said in its forecast: “Life and property are at high risk Tuesday through Wednesday.”
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the volume of atmospheric rivers can be 15 times the volume of the Mississippi River. They look like a plume of thin clouds that can stretch for hundreds of miles.
In 2019, an atmospheric river called the “Pineapple Express” hit California. Steam from under Hawaii brought rain, triggered landslides and forced motorists to swim for their lives.
In 2021, an atmospheric river dumped a month’s worth of rain on British Columbia in two days, causing deadly floods and landslides, destroying communities and blocking access to Canada’s largest port.
The future is predicted to have 10 percent fewer atmospheric rivers, but is expected to be 25 percent wider and longer and carry more water, reports Research work since 2018.