An atmospheric river brings floods, power outages, and landslides to Southern California

Southern Californians weary of a storm-infested winter on Wednesday were hit with a blast from the 11th atmospheric river of the season, which flooded roads, triggered landslides and hurricanes. Trees fell across the state.

California has been hit by a series of atmospheric rivers, Which can cause severe flooding when these weather events cause land to subside and release stored water vapor. Flooding closed several miles of Pacific Coast Highway through Huntington Beach, south of Los Angeles on the Orange County coast. An overnight mudslide on a road in the Baldwin Hills area of ​​Los Angeles County trapped two cars. KNBC-TV reported. Another hill in the neighborhood also gave way, threatening the foundation of a hilltop home.

California Storms
Crews assess damage from the storm, which ripped through North Main Street in Sockwell, Calif., Friday, March 10, 2023.

Nick Corey/AP

Statewide, more than 135,000 utility customers were without power early Wednesday, according to the outage tracking website. Gov. Gavin Newsom issued emergency declarations for three more counties on Tuesday, bringing the total number to 43 of the state’s 58 counties. Statewide, about 27,000 people remained under evacuation orders and more than 61,000 people were under warnings to be prepared to evacuate due to weather effects, according to the California Office of Emergency Services. The emergency shelters housed 676 people on Tuesday night.

However, the rains ended water restrictions for nearly 7 million people amid the state’s historic drought. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California decided to lift restrictions, which included limiting outdoor watering to one day per week in parts of Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties.

California was in the depths of a drought before an unexpected series of rivers flowed high into the atmosphere into the state from late December through mid-January, causing floods while building a spectacular snowpack in the Sierra Nevada. While only 17% of storms on the West Coast are caused by atmospheric rivers, they contribute 30% to 50% of precipitation in California, according to Study conducted by NASA. They also contribute to 40% of the Sierra’s ice mass, and more than 80% of major floods in the state, the NASA study found.

Runoff from a powerful river into the atmosphere last week burst a dam on the Pajaro River, prompting evacuations as farmland and farming communities were inundated. Nearly half of the people ordered to evacuate were in Monterey County. Phase one of repairs to the 400-foot dam breach was completed Tuesday afternoon, county officials said, and crews are working to raise the section to the full height.

Although California rains are imminent, flood warnings remain in effect for the central coast of the Salinas and Pajaro Rivers in Monterey County And other rivers in the Central Valley, where water flows from land that has been saturated with storms since late December.

Caitlin O’Kane contributed reporting

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