AccuWeather is wrapping up live coverage of the atmospheric river that brought heavy downpours and snow to California. Forecasters are now looking at the Northeast as the next region to have a major storm. For additional coverage, stream AccuWeather NOW anytime on our website. Stay up to date on the latest weather in your area by downloading the AccuWeather mobile app and visiting AccuWeather.com. And keep an eye on weather news and forecasts by following AccuWeather on:
Residents of Kernville, California, were stunned Friday to see rushing waters in the area, as the local Kern River rose rapidly amid a flash flood emergency. “I’ve seen it up to the mobile homes, but never seen [this] in 30, 35 years … never seen [the water level] higher,” Kernville resident John Kelly told storm chaser Brandon Clement. An evacuation order was issued Friday for low-lying areas of Kernville, with Kernville resident Darrell Willhite telling Clement that people in mobile homes will “pay the price” from the storms. Willhite tried to keep a positive mind while watching water levels rise in the area, located in the southern Sierra Nevada, noting that the storms will bring further drought relief to the area. “It’s awesome because we’ve been in a drought for so long and it’s good to have the water … it’ll clear up in a week and be nice,” Willhite said.
Heavy rain sent river levels soaring in parts of California on March 10, forcing Kernville residents to evacuate as rushing water overtook homes.
Heavy rainfall has accumulated throughout California due to an atmospheric river, dropping nearly 10 inches in one Southern California location. Through Friday night, a total of 9.42 inches of rain was reported in Rocky Butte, located in San Luis Obispo County. The city of San Luis Obispo itself received 7.99 inches of rain. The Bay Area also took in a hefty accumulation as of Friday night, including 7.71 inches of rain in Cazadero, about 90 miles northwest of San Francisco.
A river in the Bay Area of California breached its levee early Saturday morning, leading to a round of evacuations for one community. The Pajaro River in Watsonville, California, overtopped and breached the levee around midnight, local time, forcing evacuation orders for an area of the Pajaro community. The river reached a gage height of 32 feet due to ongoing flooding, higher than at any point in January’s deadly storms. "My heart hurts tonight for the residents of Pajaro," Monterey County Board of Supervisors Chair Luis Alejo said. "We were hoping to avoid and prevent this situation, but the worst-case scenario has arrived." Monterey County has been battling flooding throughout the week, including the Salinas River recently reaching moderate flood stage.
This winter has been a boon for ski resorts across California, and the yards of snow that have fallen over the Sierra Nevada will last well into the summer. As of Thursday, the famous Mammoth Mountain had measured 556 inches (46.3 feet) of snow for the season, significantly higher than the historical average of 300 inches -- and more snow is on the way. AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist and longtime California resident Ken Clark said that Mammoth Mountain would likely remain open to skiers well into June and maybe even Independence Day. “This has been a godsend year,” Clark added.
This winter has been the snowiest at the resort since 2016-17, when 617.5 inches of snow fell -- the second snowiest in Mammoth Mountain history. The mountain remained open until Aug. 6, 2017, due to the plethora of snow that covered the mountain, according to Snowpak.com. With more snowstorms possible in the coming weeks, it is not out of the question that the winter could finish as one of the snowiest on record for Mammoth Mountain. Since 1969, the mountain has only measured over 600 inches of snow during two winter seasons, with the snowiest being the winter of 2010-11, when 668.5 inches accumulated.
As Friday's atmospheric river pushed milder air into the West Coast, snow levels in the Sierras quickly rose, bringing rain to much of the mountainous terrain. The difference was stark when compared to previous storms, which brought cold temperatures and snow to many at lower elevations in the state, even close to downtown Los Angeles. However, even as many have seen snow change to rain, some of the highest elevations in the Sierras continue to deal with heavy snow and blizzard conditions. As the repeated rounds of snow continue to pile up, some of California's snowiest locations are approaching all-time snow records for the season.
At Mammoth Mountain, which has received an astonishing 569 inches of snow to date, this week's atmospheric river continues to bring wintry weather, rather than rain, to the mountain's ski slopes. Over a foot of snow was reported on Friday, with much more to come over the coming days. Snow often falls in the Sierras through April and May, and with an unsettled weather pattern likely to continue into the spring months, the all-time record of 669 inches, set in the 2010-2011 season, is increasingly likely to be broken.
While the heavy rain seen on Friday across much of the Golden State has departed and left behind occasional showers, forecasters caution that the flood threat remains unchanged in many areas. As runoff from recent rainfall and melted snow funnels into the state's rivers and streams, water levels may continue to rise, even as the heaviest rain has stopped for the time being.
In portions of the Central Valley, flooding began during the day on Friday and has not stopped since. A flood warning remains in effect along the Merced River, located between Fresno and Bakersfield. According to the National Weather Service, water levels on the river have steadily risen throughout the night, and will soon rise above flood stage Saturday morning. The river is expected to crest at roughly 73 feet, the highest since a similar crest in 1950.
Other rivers in the state have flooding that is ongoing already. In Monterey County, the Salinas River recently reached moderate flood stage, and is expected to remain at flood status through the start of next week. With more rain in the forecast for the West Coast, and with additional snowmelt heading into the warmer spring months, flooding will remain a serious hazard for California in the days to come.
The term “pineapple express” has been used to describe the atmospheric river that is currently bringing heavy rain to parts of California and the West Coast, but what do pineapples have to do with meteorology? Well, it all has to do with where this specific atmospheric river originate from. Typically, atmospheric rivers originates in the tropical Pacific Ocean and transports moisture to the U.S. West Coast. But a pineapple express originates from Hawaii — the nations leading producer of pineapples — and transport moisture to the U.S. West Coast.
This concentrated band of moisture produces heavy precipitation once it falls across the U.S. West Coast and often results in major flooding, mudslides, road closures and travel delays. The most common time of the year for pineapple express atmospheric rivers to occur is in the fall and winter months.
While the area was experiencing another downpour of heavy rainfall on Friday, the weather will dry up come Sunday for the Oscars. “Sunday will be a dry day for Los Angeles,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Danielle Knittle said. “The day will start with low clouds, and those clouds will seem to slowly give way to occasional sunshine in the afternoon before turning out mostly cloudy on Sunday night. While the temperature around the time of the Oscars is forecast to hit 56 degrees, the high temperature that day is expected to be round 65 degrees, which would be “several degrees below the historical average,” according to Knittle. The average daily high is 70 degrees for Downtown Los Angeles.
Over half of all flood-related drownings occur when a vehicle is driven into dangerous floodwaters, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If you come across a flooded roadway, it is important toTurn Around, Don’t Drown! ® Just one foot of moving water is enough to sweep away your vehicle. While you should avoid driving into flooded roadways, if you happen to find yourself trapped in your car in fasting moving water the most important thing to remember to do is to stay calm. According to Car.com, here are a few other things to remember:
• Turn on your headlights and hazard lights to make it easier for emergency personnel to locate you.
• Unbuckle your seat belt and unlock your doors.
• Take your jacket and outer clothing off.
• If you can open your windows, do so slowly, climb out, move to higher ground and call 911.
• If you can’t open your windows, you’ll have to open your doors. To do so, you must first equalize the water pressure inside your car to match the outside. This will require water to enter the car and fill up to about neck level. Once the doors are open, swim safely to land and call 911.
An atmospheric river continues to impact California, bringing heavy rain and snow to the state. The heaviest rain is falling in southeastern California near Essex and the central part of the state just to the east of California State Route 99 in Merced and Chowchilla. Rain also spread to downtown Los Angeles as of Friday evening, also spreading as far south as San Diego and to the Mexico border into Tijuana. The largest snow bands are across the eastern part of the state including the northern part of Lake Tahoe and stretching southward near Mammoth Lakes.
As an atmospheric river brings heavy snow, rain and gusty winds to California and western Nevada, the National Weather Service (NWS) warned avalanches and roofalanches are possible in higher elevations. But what is a roofalanche? A roofalanche is the sudden release of snow from already snow-packed roofs, and while the term might sound silly, roofalanches are no joke. When areas receive a high amount of snow, like the Lake Tahoe area has this winter, snow piles up on rooftops. If people don’t consistently shovel the snow off their roofs, it could all slide off and its results can be deadly. Roofalanches have been reported in Utah already this winter, according to KSL5 reporter Matt Rascon. A Telsa was flattened after snow slid off a person’s house near Brighton, Utah, which is a town southeast of Salt Lake City. Photos show the back windshield completely shattered and dents in the car.
A swollen creek in Northern California’s Santa Cruz County destroyed a portion of Main Street in the town of Soquel on Friday, isolating several neighborhoods, The Associated Press reported. The town has a population of 10,000 people. Crews were working to clear debris and find a way for people to pass, according to county officials, but otherwise warned residents to avoid the area. The area isn’t the only one in California dealing with overflowing creeks. Evacuations were ordered in the neighboring Watsonville when creek water spilled into the roadways. In Central California, the Tule River overran its banks, flooding homes.
Officials from the California Department of Water Resources have started to release water from the Orville Dam spillway for the first time since April 2019 amid the onslaught of rain the state received Friday. Water elevation at the lake has risen close to 180 feet since Dec. 1, and after the train of storms that have slammed the West Coast over the winter, water levels at the lake are now only 60 feet shy of its maximum, State Water Project Deputy Director Ted Craddock told The Sacramento Bee. Torrential rainfall had previously damaged the dam in 2017, leading to the evacuation of portions of Butte, Sutter and Yuba counties in Northern California. Repairs were finished by April 2, 2019. While the spillway is currently only releasing 15,000 cubic feet per second (cfs), it is capable of handling higher releases if needed, water officials said.
At least two people have died due to the impacts of the storm in California, a spokesperson with the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services confirmed with AccuWeather. One of the deaths occurred in Placer County, located in Northern California, and the second occurred in San Bernardino County, located in the southern portion of the state, spokesperson Shawn Boyd said. A third person died on Friday in Oakland, California, when the roof at a commercial warehouse and distribution facility for Peet’s Coffee partially collapsed. The cause of the collapse is currently being investigated to determine whether the heavy rain played a direct role, according to Michael Hunt, spokesperson for the Oakland Fire Department. State and OSHA officials were on the scene Friday as a part of the investigation.
The call came in at 3:13 a.m. Friday, with about 20 firefighters responding to the incident. The man who was killed was a longtime employee of Peet’s Coffee, and he had been in the building with a woman who was taken to the hospital for non-life-threatening injuries following the collapse. They were the only people in the building at the time, according to officials. “We are all devastated by this tragedy. The employee was a distribution lead and had been a beloved part of the Peet’s family for 17 years. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family,” Mary O’Connell, a spokesperson for the coffee company, said in a statement.
The part of the warehouse roof that collapsed in Oakland, California, early Friday morning following a storm. A man, a longtime employee of Peet's Coffee, died in the incident, according to state and company officials. (Oakland Fire Department)
The California National Guard has been busy as of late, helping people and animals across the state amid a barrage of winter storms. Last week, it helped Cal Fire and the U.S. Coast Guard fly helicopters to deliver hay to remote cattle across the state, The Associated Press reported. On Thursday, the California National Guard’s 2632nd Trans. Co. was dispatched with high-water vehicles to prepare for emergency flood rescues during the latest storm. The National Guard is also coordinating with California’s Office of Emergency Services to determine where help is needed most as multiple counties deal with flash flooding, mudslides and washouts.
As of late Friday morning, local time, Monterey County, California, located on the state’s central coast, accounted for over half of California’s power outages. Over 36,500 customers were without power across the county, which was more than half of the roughly 60,800 customers without electricity across the state, according to PowerOutage.US. Despite the power outages in the state, however, the number of canceled and delayed flights remains relatively low for the time being. Only 17 flights at San Francisco International have been canceled and another 142 delayed, according to FlightAware.com
An evacuation order was issued for areas of Kernville and Riverkern, California, late Friday morning due to rising water levels of the Kern River amid a flash flood emergency. The towns are located in the southern Sierra Nevada near the Sequoia National Forest and were included in a flash flood emergency that also covered Lake Isabella and Wofford Heights until 1:45 p.m. PST. “This is a life-threatening situation. Seek higher ground now!” the National Weather Service warned. Over 5,200 people reside in the covered area. They are among the more than 9,400 residents who have been ordered to evacuate their homes due to flooding across the state, according to Nancy Ward, director of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.
California will now be able to tap into federal resources to deal with the flooding, landslides and severe weather across the state. On Friday morning, The White House announced that President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for the state due to the ongoing storms. “FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency,” The White House said in a statement. The announcement comes one day after California Governor Gavin Newsom submitted a request for a Presidential Emergency Declaration due to the severe storms impacting most of the state.
One person was killed early Friday morning after part of a roof collapsed at the Peet’s Coffee warehouse in Oakland, California, according to a fire official, CNN reported. It was not confirmed if the incident was weather-related or not. An official investigation will determine the cause of the roof collapse, but it is believed to be the result of heavy rains falling in the area, CNN reported. According to NBC Bay Area, if the incident occurred an hour or two later, more people could have been in that area. Since it happened during a shift change, fewer people were in the affected area. The victim has not been identified.
A roof at a coffee distribution warehouse in Oakland, California, partially collapsed early Friday morning killing someone inside, according to the fire department.
Boulder Creek is typically a smaller stream located in the mountains about 10 miles north of Santa Cruz, California, but the ongoing storm transformed the babbling brook into a rapidly rising river. A person who lives in the area visited Boulder Creek on Thursday and took a picture before the rain arrived. Just 24 hours later, on Friday morning, he took another photo of the same location showing just how quickly the water level had risen due to heavy rain. Several mudslides have been reported in the mountains surrounding Santa Cruz, with more possible through Friday afternoon as the rain continues.
Two photos taken from Boulder Creek, California, just 24 hours apart. The image on the left was taken on Tuesday, March 9, before heavy rain arrived. The image on the right was taken on Friday, March 10, during the storm. (Twitter/ @SCMountainDad)
The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a flash flood emergency for Springville, California, which is a town about 67 miles southeast of Fresno. “Between 1.5 and 3 inches of rain have fallen. Rapid snowmelt is also occurring and will add to the flooding,” the NWS said in its warning. “This is a particularly dangerous situation. Seek higher ground now.”
Flash flood emergencies are rare alerts issued by the NWS to highlight when there is a major threat to life or potential for catastrophic damage. Much like a tornado warning, the alerts get sent through wireless emergency alerts to mobile devices in the affected region to notify people who are in imminent danger. This is the first time a flash flood emergency has been issued in the United States since Sept. 29, 2022.
Heavy snow, fueled by an ongoing atmospheric river, has created dangerous travel conditions in California. Video from Storm Chaser Brandon Clement showed several cars spun out on the snow-covered roadways across Northern California. People could be seen pushing a car back onto the road after it slid off. Truck drivers were installing chains on their tires to add more traction. Crews worked tirelessly around the clock to clear the roadways, but according to the California Department of Transportation, several roads in Northern California remain under chain control.
Heavy snow fell on Redding, California, on March 9, causing tough travel conditions for drivers.
Another atmospheric river is unleashing heavy rain, snow and gusty winds across California. As of 7 a.m. local time Friday morning, the heaviest rain is located in Central California, from Fresno to Groveland. The distance between these two towns is roughly 80 miles. Light rain showers were reported as far south as Los Angeles as of Friday morning. Snow could be seen falling across parts of east-central California in Yosemite National Park.
Some California cities have already measured record amounts of rainfall this year. On Thursday, San Francisco recorded 0.72 of an inch of rain, pushing its seasonal rainfall total past 27 inches, the National Weather Service wrote. The city is currently experiencing its 11th wettest water year to date.
Heavy rain has created catastrophic and life-threatening flooding across California. In Soquel, a town located near the coast in Santa Cruz County, a portion of Main Street was completely washed away Friday morning. Santa Cruz County officials shared a video on Twitter of floodwaters rushing through the areas where Main Street once was. Since residents north of the road closure are trapped, officials ordered a shelter-in-place for Soquel Hills. An evacuation order was issued for a small area in Soquel, south of where the road washed away. Additionally, the Soquel River reached a height of 16.28 feet early Friday morning, which is above the minor flood stage of 16 feet. By 7:45 a.m. PST, water levels on the river had subsided to 12.05 feet.
The Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center (ESAC) has placed several locations under an avalanche warning as another atmospheric river takes aim at the storm-weary state. Recent storms have dumped more than 100 inches of snow on some mountaintops in California, resulting in several “weak layers” of snow. With additional heavy snow and rain expected through Friday evening, the avalanche danger in California is considerable, according to the ESAC.
As of Friday morning, the avalanche warning remained at “high,” but it is expected to increase to “extreme” by Friday afternoon and evening. “Extreme” is the highest level of avalanche danger. Areas affected stretch from the southern Sierra National Forest to the northern section of Yosemite National Park. “Dense, heavy snow can overload structures, and roofalanches could be a hazard in towns after dark,” the ESAC warns. “It’s possible that roads could close. If not, remember that blocking snowdrifts, travel routes and snow piles make it impossible for road crews to do their job.”
The powerful winter storms this season have completely erased the ongoing drought in large chunks of California, and additional improvement is expected in the weeks and months ahead. According to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor report that was released on Thursday, more than 26% of California is now drought-free, up from a little over 16% at this time last week. Three months ago, the entire state was either in some form of drought or experiencing abnormally dry conditions. As of Thursday, more than 5 million Californians were living in areas dealing with drought. This is down from more than 9 million just one week ago.
The areas of extreme and exceptional drought, the two most intense forms of drought classification, were both completely wiped away by the middle of January. Just 19% of the state was dealing with severe drought as of March 7, compared to nearly 85% three months ago. The drought monitor’s data is compiled on Tuesday of each week, which means that any additional rain and snow measurements from Wednesday of this week will count toward next week’s report.
This winter has been quite active for California, and according to some experts, busier than expected. Typically the state sees stormier winters during El Niño patterns, but, up until this week, a La Niña was in place.
“We have seen a tremendous [drought] improvement ... this was not expected for this winter, it was not expected to be this kind of winter, but we’ve been given a gift in California,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Ken Clark, who resides in Southern California and has forecast the weather in the West for decades.
The storms have had their fair share of negative consequences, however, as they have turned deadly by knocking over trees, causing mudslides and avalanches, and producing severe flooding throughout the state.
If anyone in the Northeast is looking for snow, Mammoth Mountain in California has plenty to go around. The mountain is more than 250 inches above the historical average of 300 inches, and upwards of 3-4 additional feet of snow is expected to fall through Sunday evening. The total amount of snow Mammoth Mountain has received since the start of the winter season is taller than a four-story building.
Farther south, in San Bernardino County, at least 12 people have been found dead this week after back-to-back winter storms dropped over 100 inches of snow in locations. Many residents have voiced their frustration with the county’s lack of preparedness and communication. One of the highest snowfall totals in the county came from Running Springs, where a total of 150 inches — or 12.5 feet — of snow has been measured after multiple storms.
As an atmospheric river continues to deliver heavy rain and snow to the storm-weary state, gusty winds have also been reported. On Friday morning, two locations recorded wind gusts above 100 mph. Kirkwood Mountain, California, a ski resort that sits at an elevation of 7,690 feet and is located west of the California-Nevada state line, recorded a wind gust of 133 mph. That’s equivalent to Category 4 hurricane wind speeds. Mammoth Mountain, which has an elevation of 11,053 feet, recorded a wind gust of 100 mph on Friday morning. Peavine Mountain, Nevada, which is located northwest of Reno, recorded a wind gust of 98 mph. This mountain has an elevation of 8,269 feet.
An atmospheric river may sound whimsical and have the potential to bring some much-needed moisture to the West, but it can often spark flooding or dangerous snowfall totals. These massive plumes of moisture originate some 2,500 miles from the U.S. West Coast in the tropical Pacific Ocean and move eastward. While the West is in desperate need of moisture to quench the ongoing drought and buff up the snowpacks, the weather setup can lead to excessive rainfall and flooding or even shut down travel with heavy snowfall. This particular atmospheric river can be classified as a “Pineapple Express” as it builds up moisture around Hawaii.
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