An “atmospheric river” triggering torrential rains across much of California flooded roads Thursday and could lead to dangerous mudslides in areas swollen from days of rain and still recovering from devastating wildfires.
Up to 3 inches of rain will fall along the coast from San Diego to the Oregon border, AccuWeather said. Some mountain slopes could see twice that; 8 inches or more was possible in mountainous areas.
High in the Sierra, already overwhelmed with snow, up to 7 feet of snow could fall.
“Enough rain will fall in the major cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, San Diego and others to lead to incidents of urban flooding,” AccuWeather senior meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said. In the mountains and canyons, road will close “due to flash flooding, mudslides and other debris flows.”
Atmospheric river is a plume of tropical moisture that can result in heavy rainfall or snowfall in a narrow swath where persistent winds can ferry moisture from tropical areas. This one was rolling through California from Hawaii, the National Weather Service said.
The system is also bringing high winds. Gusts reaching 60 mph are likely over parts of Southern California, AccuWeather said. Power was out to more than 100,000 homes and businesses across the state.
California, coming off of years of drought, has been awash in rain in recent months. On Wednesday, San Francisco was hit with a “hefty 2.49” inches of rain, the fifth wettest for any February day on record, the weather service said.
“There’s a lot of standing water and some flooded roadways,” Caltran’s Bay-area director Tony Tavares said. “Please drive carefully and never drive through flooded roadways.”
Caltrans was reporting road closures in San Diego. Mandatory evacuations were in effect for areas blow Los Angeles recovering from wildfires.
Tim Suber said his hillside neighborhood in Lake Elsinore has been evacuated countless times since last summer’s wildfire .
“I’m not going this time,” Suber said after Riverside County sheriff’s deputies warned him that he could end up trapped if roads flood. “I’ve got 35 chickens and a daughter who won’t leave them behind. So we’re staying.”
Contributing: The Associated Press