Severe flooding that washed away roads and sent residents in parts of northern and central California fleeing their homes is expected to continue Saturday and through the weekend as more rain arrives.
But Saturday is unlikely to bring the walls of torrential rain that hit communities on Friday, which saw bridges collapse, roads split and caused thousands of power outages.
At least two people died as a result of the storms, officials said.
“Overall, the environmental ingredients are not as impressive as the recent strong atmospheric riverine event, but nonetheless an extended period of light to occasionally moderate precipitation is expected in parts of central to northern California” Saturday, said the Weather Prediction Center.
The impacts of this week’s storms have been compounded after heavy rains dumped on the same areas buried by heavy snowfall over the past two weeks. Melting snowpack will play a role in prolonging flooding over the next few days, forecasters said.
About 15 million people were under flood watch – stretching from as far north as Redding south to San Bernardino in California, and included parts of northwestern Nevada. Flood warnings were still in effect for parts of northern and central California through Saturday morning.
A slight risk of excessive precipitation, Level 2 of 4, was also issued over parts of the northern California coast as well as the western foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. Widespread rain totals of 1 to 3 inches are expected on Saturday.
Evacuation orders have been expanded in Tulare County to include the community of Teviston as well as parts of Cutler and Exeter because river flow has increased, according to the county sheriff’s office Friday evening. Authorities have urged residents to stay away from waterways and avoid unnecessary travel.
“Due to the amount of water added to Success Lake from rain and runoff, water levels are expected to reach the spillway,” the sheriff’s office said.
Friday’s heavy rains hit Santa Cruz County, where about 700 Soquel residents were trapped after a burst pipe led to severe flooding and the collapse of the only road connecting the community to the rest of the area, according to Steve Wiesner, the county public servant. Director of Works. Residents will remain isolated until a new crossing can be created, which could take days, Wiesner said.
“It’s the only road into town,” Molly Watson told CNN. “We are now an island.”
A photo Watson shared with CNN captures a chaotic scene where a large chunk of road is washed away by floodwaters as cracked pavement appears to sink into the rushing water. Emergency crews stand on one side of the road – on the other, residents watch.
“I’ve lived here all my life and I’ve never seen the creek cross the road,” Soquel resident Nick Maleta told CNN affiliate KGO and compared the heavy rain to a tornado.
“All night you could hear, the water is so saturated and the poplars in particular are so weak, you could hear them falling all night long,” Maleta said.
Soquel is one of the hardest hit areas in Santa Cruz County, soaking up more than 6.5 inches of rain in some areas while widespread rainfall was around 2 inches, according to a report from the National Weather Service office. in San Francisco.
As of Saturday morning, more than 41,000 homes and businesses across the state were without power, with about 30,000 of those outages in coastal Monterey County, according to tracking site PowerOutage.us.
Luis Alejo, chairman of the Monterey County Board of Supervisors, tweeted on Saturday that the “worst case scenario” had arrived with the Pajaro River overflowing and a levee breaking. around midnight local time.
As of 9 a.m. Saturday, the breach was 100 feet wide, officials said.
Sheriff’s deputies were going door-to-door to clear remaining residents in affected neighborhoods before water flooded their homes, County Emergency Services Office Manager Gerry Malais said.
“National Guard deep-sea rescue vehicles that were requested by Monterey County and members of the Swiftwater Rescue Team are also on the scene,” the county said.
To mitigate another natural disaster hitting California, President Joe Biden has approved a declaration of a state of emergency requested by Governor Gavin Newsom. This decision frees up funds for the millions of residents who have been affected by bad weather since the beginning of the year.
Meanwhile, Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo declared a state of emergency for Churchill, Douglas and Lyon counties in the northern part of the state due to flooding associated with the same storm.
“The severe weather has resulted in heavy rains, flooding and infrastructure damage in Northern Nevada. As the extreme weather continues, further flooding and infrastructure damage is expected across the region,” the governor’s office said in a statement.
An atmospheric river – which is made up of long, narrow bands of moisture in the atmosphere that carry warm air and water vapor from the tropics – brought colossal amounts of rain to places that couldn’t handle it anymore .
Anderson Peak in Monterey County was inundated with 13.63 inches of rain, according to the NWS office in San Francisco. Elsewhere in the county, isolated rainfall in Hearst Castle was 11.61 inches and 8.36 inches.
Double-digit inches of rain were also seen in San Mateo County’s Pacifica, where 13.41 inches of rain were reported. Several areas in Santa Cruz County saw more than 5 inches of rain while 6.56 inches of isolated precipitation was recorded in Sonoma County.
In Tulare County, the sheriff’s office received reports of widespread flooding, collapsed bridges, downed trees and separated roads.
The heavy rain came as 34 of California’s 58 counties were under states of emergency issued by the governor’s office due to previous storms and the threat of severe weather this week.
To manage the heavy rainfall, California water officials began releasing water from the main spillway at Oroville Dam for the first time in four years, according to a news release from the California Department of Water Resources.
The spillway at Oroville Dam, the nation’s tallest dam at 770 feet in the Feather River, opened at noon on Friday and is expected to remain through the weekend.
“In anticipation of increased runoff inputs to the reservoir, the DWR has begun increasing water discharges to the Feather River via the Hyatt Generating Station and Main Spillway. These releases provide flood protection for downstream communities,” the department said, adding that the tactic is being closely coordinated with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other water operators.
In 2017, the dam was closed for two years after powerful storms raised the water level of Lake Oroville and caused the dam to overflow. It reopened in 2019 after crews rebuilt all of its features.