Since late December, the weather conditions in California have gone from drought to deluge. A phenomenon known as atmospheric rivers is fueling the series of destructive storms currently sweeping through the Golden State. Essentially, these are uncannily long and powerful jet streams, and this one is bringing in tropical moisture from Southeast Asia across the Pacific Ocean.
These weather bands have settled over the waters of the West Coast, meaning experts cannot forecast when the storms will end. The National Weather Service has predicted a “relentless parade” of activity, and local authorities have ordered thousands of evacuations. President Joe Biden has also issued an emergency declaration for the entire state of California.
On January 10, 224,000 people did not have power as rain and wind continued to batter the area. Most of these outages, totaling 64,057 customers, are in Santa Clara County. Other parts of the state are also seeing significant impacts from this storm system.
Monday, January 9, Santa Barbara saw record rainfall of 4.12 inches. Over the past two days, torrential rains have measured 16.34 inches in Ventura County, 16.05 inches in Santa Barbara County, 10.71 inches in Monterey County, and 7.12 inches in Los Angeles County.
Over the past 24 hours, wind gusts of up to 88 miles per hour have been recorded in Santa Clarita’s neighboring mountains. This weekend could bring another 5-10 inches of rain across California, with the chance of even more flooding. The Sierra Nevada mountains could see 4-6 feet of snow.
A wave of the storm system will move through the San Francisco Bay area this morning and is expected to linger all day. Parts of Southern California, including Los Angeles, will also see rain from this cell. The state could see some relief on Tuesday night before another storm sweeps into the Bay Area on the morning of Wednesday, January 11.
Tornado warnings for parts of Central California were issued early Tuesday morning. The included areas were Rancho Calaveras, Valley Springs, Buena Vista, Modesto, Ceras, and Riverbank.
While these atmospheric rivers frequently occur across the world, they cause 80% of the flood damage on the West Coast of the United States. The average cost of this damage is $1.1 billion annually. These storms are expected to get even more severe as climate change continues.
Cover Image: CNN via Nic Coury/AP