The majority of outages were reported in Sacramento County, where winds toppled trees and power lines. Sacramento International Airport recorded a gust of 70 mph. Sacramento Municipal Utility District tweeted that it is “working as safely and quickly as possible to restore power.”
Sacramento County urged people to leave the Wilton area because of “impending” flood Sunday morning.
Falling trees killed one person and seriously injured another Saturday night, according to Capt. Keith Wade of the Sacramento Fire Department.
The woman who died was staying in a tent right next to where a levee system meets the American River. Members of the large uninhabited community camping along the levee moved the tree from her tent before firefighters arrived, Wade said. She was pronounced dead at a hospital.
Wade said a fallen tree also fell on a car, seriously injuring a passenger.
Wade said the fallen trees caused not only death and injuries, but also severe traffic disruptions. “I’ve never seen in 22 years here this amount of tree debris and downed trees from a passing storm,” he said.
The combination of roots made shallow by years of drought and soil saturated by recent heavy rain made it easy for the trees to fall, Wade said. His department has failed to keep up with demand and things will get worse before they get better.
Wade said the department’s 16-member swiftwater rescue team is bracing for wind gusts up to 40 mph and another 2 to 3 inches of rain over the next 24 hours.
The 911 system there is overwhelmed with calls, but he could not quantify how many because the city’s fire and police response system went down around 2 a.m. Sunday. This prompted firefighters to handwrite the addresses given to them by dispatchers so they could respond.
He said around noon local time that they were close to restoring the system.
In Santa Cruz, south of San Francisco, a fallen tree also killed a 72-year-old man, according to Mayor Fred Keely.
Keely (D) said city workers are in emergency mode and prepared for water rescue operations, but he worries about keeping infrastructure running, including storm sewers, sewers and gutters. He said in an interview that Santa Cruz is willing to use a National Guard armory to house up to 500 people experiencing homelessness and provide tents for those who prefer to live outside.
Keely said his city and state have a “front line on climate change” and the devastation it brings.
The state has responded as best it can, he said, but Washington has not caught up.
“Lagging behind as usual,” Keely said. “The federal government is stuck in what I would call an old-school FEMA response to things, as opposed to organizing the Army Corps of Engineers and starting to look forward to what we need to do.”
FEMA did not immediately respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment.
Robert Wilson, 24, of Santa Cruz, said he hopes storms like this don’t become the norm.
“When I first moved to Santa Cruz shortly after the historic CZU [Lightning Complex] fire I was skeptical, but generally one takes a risk wherever one chooses to live,” Wilson said. “Santa Cruz has a good track record of dealing with emergencies, which gives me confidence that I’m here, and storms like this are rare.”
Mayor Darrell Steinberg (D) said Sacramento had “cleared hundreds of trees and thousands of drains” in preparation for the storms.
“We are preparing for the next wave of storms today and are urging anyone still outdoors to go to a rest center or at least get to higher ground away from trees and bodies of water.”
The city has been offering beds and respite centers since Wednesday and plans to continue through Thursday morning.
Michael Anderson, state climatologist with the California Department of Water Resources, said during a briefing Saturday that the series of storms began Dec. 27 and is expected to last through Jan. 19. The storm expected Monday and Tuesday is the second of five, he said, “and also the one that has our biggest concerns right now.”
Forecast models disagree about the strength and location of the third, fourth and fifth storms, Anderson said. “But,” he added, “we have an indication that there is something there.”
Like its predecessors, the incoming storm is an intense atmospheric river or band of deep tropical moisture. It is expected to flood low-lying areas in the region, cause surf on beaches and bring heavy snow and winds in excess of 100 mph near mountain peaks.
Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) scheduled a news conference for Sunday afternoon to discuss the storm, according to his office.
The National Weather Service urged residents to follow local forecasts, avoid driving through flooded roads and have an emergency evacuation kit and plan for this week’s storms.
In California’s central valley and near the coast, 2 to 4 inches of rain are likely, while the foothills could see up to 9 inches by Wednesday. Flood watches are in place over most of central and northern California, along with wind advisories warning of gusts in excess of 40 to 50 mph.
The state has been drenched in rain in recent weeks. Atmospheric river drenched Northern and central California on New Year’s Eve, power outages and some people stranded in flooded cars.
In 13 days, San Francisco has accumulated 11.16 inches, the wettest stretch on record in the city since 1871. 5.46 inches of rain fell on December 31, the second wettest calendar day on record since record keeping began in 1849.
“All major rivers are expected to be near or above flood stage by Monday afternoon/evening,” the National Weather Service Bay Area office wrote. Several rivers can reach record levels.
The National Weather Service Center responsible for precipitation forecasts wrote this in some areas there may be amounts that occur on average once every five to 10 years. A large area of central and northern California has a 40 to 70 percent chance of flash flooding within 25 miles of any given location.
The Sierra Nevada can expect 3 to 6 feet of snow above 6,000 feet elevation Monday through Tuesday. Winds of 80 mph are also possible, and gusts of 100 to 130 mph cannot be ruled out along the Sierra ridgeline.
Below 7,000 feet, precipitation will begin as snow and transition to rain, causing the snowpack to accumulate water, increasing the risk of avalanches. With lighter precipitation Monday night, temperatures will cool and subzero elevations will drop as a fresh batch of precipitation arrives Tuesday morning.
“Widespread avalanche activity in the mountains” is expected, according to the National Weather Service in Reno, Nevada. “Large destructive avalanches can occur in different areas.”
Weather models show the potential for a few thunderstorms Monday night, which could lead to snow showers that pose a danger to skiers and increase snowfall levels. Accumulations of more than 5 inches per hour cannot be ruled out during the peak of the storm.
Anderson, the climatologist, said the rain that fell over California in the previous week was leading to “some pretty amazing numbers.”
“What can it be More ▼ the next six days are impressive,” he said. “Look at these numbers – just as big as what we’ve been through and this relentless pace of storms, and some really big numbers.”
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