California battered by torrential rain amid a new wave of storms

The latest in a series of powerful storm fronts driven by atmospheric rivers California struck again on Saturday as the state continued to struggle with heavy rains and flooding that caused widespread damage and forced thousands to evacuate.

At a news conference Saturday in Merced County, California, Governor Gavin Newsom said the storms are responsible for at least 19 deaths.

A series of atmospheric rivers — long regions of the atmosphere that carry water — are responsible for the storms that have battered California since Dec. 26. Newsom Saturday estimated California has been hit by eight atmospheric rivers so far, with a ninth possible.

Storm damage in California
A pedestrian walks among driftwood and debris on Capitola Beach in Capitola, California, on Jan. 14, 2023.

Nic Coury/Bloomberg via Getty Images


So did the governor between 22 and 25 trillion gallons A lot of rain has fallen on the state since the storms started a few weeks ago.

“The stacking of these atmospheric rivers, like we haven’t seen in our lifetime. The reality is that this is only the eighth of what we expect nine atmospheric rivers to be,” Newsom told reporters. “We’re not done yet. I know there comes a point in every challenging time where people are fatigued…I’m just praying for all of us to keep our vigilance, our sanity, for the next 24 to 48 hours.”

President Biden issued a major disaster declaration for California late Saturday night. Among other things, the statement will make federal funding available to residents and businesses in Merced, Sacramento and Santa Cruz counties to help pay for recovery efforts, such as home repairs. The support can be in the form of grants or loans.

Crews Saturday were forced to search for one missing 5 year old boy which was wiped out Monday by flooding in San Marcos Creek, near San Miguel due to rising water levels and unsuitable weather conditions, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office reported.

Just over 26,000 customers in California were without power Saturday afternoon, according to the outage tracking website poweroutage.us.

Flood warnings were issued for the region north of San Francisco Bay, including Marin, Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties.

Warnings were posted for parts of counties, including San Mateo and Santa Cruz, where the small community of Felton Grove was being evacuated along the San Lorenzo River. An evacuation order was also issued for residents of the Wilton area in semi-rural southeastern Sacramento County. Authorities cited the threat of flooding of the Cosumnes River.

“Flooding is imminent,” says the Sacramento County Office of Emergency Services tweeted.

Residents of several parts of San Benito County, south of San Jose, were also ordered to evacuate.

The swollen Salinas River inundated farmland in Monterey County, and flood warnings were in effect for Merced County in the agricultural Central Valley to the east.

Storm damage in California
Pedestrians wade through floodwaters in Aptos, California, on January 14, 2023.

Nic Coury/Bloomberg via Getty Images


Slippery roads, snow and white conditions plagued the highways through the Sierra Nevada.

The UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab tweeted Saturday morning that it received 21.3 inches of snow in 24 hours and that the snowpack of about 10 feet was expected to grow several more feet by Monday.

An avalanche warning has been issued for the central Sierra, including the greater Lake Tahoe area.

In Santa Barbara County, where a massive debris flow through the community of Montecito killed 23 people on Jan. 9, 2018, residents were told no new evacuations were expected but to be prepared.

Montecito and adjacent areas were last evacuated last Monday, the fifth anniversary of what is locally remembered as the “1/9 Debris Flow.” But the community that sat on the foothills of the coastal mountains escaped serious damage.

As of Tuesday, there are dry days in the California forecast for next week.

“The question then becomes: will we stay dry until the end of the month?” wrote the San Francisco Bay Area Weather Bureau.

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