Second Atmospheric River Brings ‘Life-Threatening’ Floods to West Coast

  • A second atmospheric river in less than a week is bringing heavy rain and strong wind to California, posing a risk for life-threatening floods.
  • AccuWeather has warned of flash floods, road closures and heavy rain for some communities.
  • The storm is providing much-needed relief from the state’s drought.

Millions of Californians are again facing potentially fatal flooding as a second atmospheric river threatens to dump more precipitation on the Golden State through Wednesday.

California has received higher-than-normal precipitation in the form of snow and rain the last several months. The increased precipitation has worked wonders for the state’s wildfire risk, but as rain continues to fall, floods pose a threat. Last week, an atmospheric river saturated much of the state and killed at least two people. A second atmospheric river is expected to hit the state Tuesday and continue into Wednesday.

Heavy rain is expected throughout the Los Angeles basin and the San Diego area beginning Tuesday night. AccuWeather forecasts up to 2 inches of rain in some areas, with higher totals predicted north of the basin. AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Jonathan Porter told Newsweek there is risk for major, “life-threatening” floods.

Cars sit in floodwaters on January 11, 2023, in Planada, California. Another atmospheric river is expected to dump heavy rain on California on Tuesday night and Wednesday.

“There will be very serious impacts,” Porter told Newsweek, referring to floods, strong wind and potential power outages.

Despite threatening to impact at least 30 million people, the storm is expected to bring more relief to the drought-ridden state.

“We expect that most or even all of the short-term drought across California can be wiped out by mid-April,” an AccuWeather spokesperson told Newsweek. “This is a staggeringly positive development, especially given the severity of the drought across California as recently as a few months ago.”

As of 4:20 p.m. ET Tuesday, more than 276,000 Californians were without power, according to an outage. Santa Clara County, which was in the high-risk forecast area, is experiencing the worst of the outages, with more than 86,000 customers affected.

People residing at elevations around 2,000 feet to 5,000 feet are most at risk, as snowmelt will add to the excess precipitation from heavy rain.

The National Weather Service Prediction Center tweeted a map outlining the most at-risk areas on Tuesday morning.

“More dangerous flooding is expected over Central and Southern CA today with another strong atmospheric river. 40% of ALL flood related fatalities and 80% of ALL flood related damages occur within WPC High Risks. Be prepared to act quickly should a warning be issued for your area,” the center tweeted.

A report from AccuWeather warned that intense precipitation coupled with snowmelt could cause creeks or streams to rise rapidly, leading to flash floods that can wash out roads and bridges. Resulting closures might isolate some communities until the water level recedes.

Strong winds were expected to accompany heavy rain, mostly in Central and Northern California. AccuWeather said the areas most at risk for gusty wind were the Santa Cruz and San Francisco coastal areas, as well as Sacramento and Redding.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration described an atmospheric river as a “long, narrow region in the atmosphere—like rivers in the sky—that transport most of the water vapor outside of the tropics.”

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