California floods 2023: Flash floods, sinkholes close roads with more storms forecast as rain causes drought

Drone video of flooded Felton in Santa Cruz County

California got a brief respite Thursday from the series of storms that have drenched the state since the start of the year.

As authorities and residents rushed to recover from the existing damage, flooding and sinkholes continue to wreak havoc and shut down entire communities, two more storms are forecast to hit Friday and into the weekend.

The National Weather Service says parts of northwestern and central California have already been hit with between 10 and 20 inches over the past two weeks, leaving the ground saturated. Now there are fears of more devastating ones flash floods to come.

At least 18 people have already died in incidents related to the extreme weather with the body of a 43-year-old woman found in a submerged vehicle in Sonoma County on Wednesday.

Near the town of Paso Robles, five-year-old Kyle Doan, swept away by the downpour when he and his mother got stuck in their car, is still missing.

One small positive side of the intense rainfall is that it has offset the severe drought the state has been experiencing.


ICYMI: NWS confirms a tornado touched down early Tuesday in the northern San Joaquin Valley

The National Weather Service in Sacramento confirmed Wednesday that the destruction in Calaveras County early Tuesday morning was caused by a small tornado.

The EF1 tornado struck around 4:10 a.m. local time, touching down near a small reservoir. Although classified as “weak,” it still produced winds of 90 mph and caused “significant damage to white oak and pine trees,” according to a news release from the NWS.

The tornado is just one small part of the severe weather that has hit California for most of this month.

On the morning the tornado hit, severe thunderstorms swept through the San Joaquin Valley with winds strong enough to lift a large horse barn near Oakdale in Stanislaus County and send it over a five-foot fence. Neighboring properties had minor roof damage and wind gusts are believed to have peaked at 75mph.

The NWS says a 17-minute warning has been sent out to residents advising that straight-line winds and tornadoes are possible from severe thunderstorms in the area.

Oliver O’ConnellJanuary 13, 2023 05:20 am


Watch: Terrifying moment mother and daughter rescued from sinkhole

Horrific footage has captured the moment a mother and daughter had to be rescued from a cliff in Chatsworth, Los Angeles.

Intense flooding caused a sinkhole to open on Monday night, swallowing two cars.

Mother and daughter were pulled to safety from an SUV.

A mother and daughter are rescued from a car swallowed by a ravine after a severe storm

Oliver O’ConnellJanuary 13, 2023 04:20 am


Gavin Newsom alludes to the connection between floods and the climate crisis

During a visit to hard-hit Santa Cruz County on Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom hinted at a link between California’s extreme weather and the climate crisis.

“The dry ones are getting a lot drier in the last three years, and the wet ones are getting a lot wetter. This weather whiplash — is this the new reality?” he said, according to NBC News.

California has been in a state of “megadrought” for the past two decades, exacerbated by the effects of global warming, according to a UCLA study last year.

The study also found that it may take several years of high rainfall to overcome the mega-drought.

“It is extremely unlikely that this drought will end in one wet year,” UCLA geographer Park Williams said at the time.

Oliver O’ConnellJanuary 13, 2023 03:20 am


Woman’s body found in submerged car in Sonoma County

At least 18 people have already died in incidents related to the extreme weather with the body of a 43-year-old woman found in a submerged vehicle in Sonoma County.

Victim Daphne Fontino made one last desperate call to 911 when her car became trapped in the floodwaters a day earlier.

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office said search and rescue crews made the grim discovery along the 6000 block of Trenton-Healdsburg Road, Forestville, Wednesday morning.

“Our deepest condolences to her family and friends,” the department said in a statement.

Oliver O’ConnellJanuary 13, 2023 02:20 am


Watch: A large sinkhole opens up after a violent storm in Orcutt, California

As an intense series of storms continues to batter California, potholes have become a major concern. Here’s one that opened in Orcutt, California.

A large sinkhole opens up after a severe storm in Orcutt, California

Oliver O’ConnellJanuary 13, 2023 1:20 am


ICYMI: The flood is coming to the California desert

The Palm Springs Fire Department conducted a rapid rescue operation after flooding in the city’s desert. A watershed is an area in the desert where water once flowed or that floods during a heavy rain or flash flood.

The rescue began around 5:45 p.m. Tuesday night and took about an hour, officials said.

Oliver O’ConnellJanuary 13, 2023 12:20 AM


How much rain and snow has fallen?

California was in a lull between storms Thursday, but more rain was expected to arrive Friday and continue through the weekend. Flooding continues to be a concern, especially along the Salinas River in Monterey County since so much rain has fallen.

In downtown San Francisco, for example, nearly 13.6 inches (34.5 centimeters) of rain fell from December 26 to January 10. Snowfall so far this season atop Mammoth Mountain Resort in the Eastern Sierra has reached 444 inches (11.3 meters).

In the Sierra Nevada and other mountains, snowpack water content is more than 200 percent of normal to date and more than 100 percent of the April 1 average, when it historically peaks, according to the state Department of Water Resources.

“The automated sensors are registering what they would consider to be a full seasonal snowpack, around what we expect on April 1,” state climatologist Michael Anderson told reporters this week.

The snowpack supplies roughly one-third of California’s water when it melts and runs off into rivers and reservoirs.

Locally, some reservoirs have seen a significant rise in water levels, but there are still significant deficits to overcome.

Statewide, reservoir storage is just 82 percent of the average for this time of year. The largest reservoir, Shasta, is only at 44 percent of capacity. That’s just 70 percent of the year-to-date average. The massive Oroville Reservoir is closer to average but is only at 49 percent of capacity.

And there are fears that the rains may suddenly stop. The end of 2021 was marked by significant storms, but the beginning of 2022 saw months of dry weather.

There are some hints of a drier pattern developing around Jan. 20, Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, said during an online briefing this week.

Oliver O’ConnellJanuary 12, 2023 11:50 p.m


At least 18 people died in the storms

At least 18 people have died in incidents related to the extreme weather in California, according to authorities.

Among the victims was a 43-year-old woman who was found in a submerged vehicle in Sonoma County on Wednesday.

Overall, more lives have been lost in the storms than in the past two years of wildfires in California.

Oliver O’ConnellJanuary 12, 2023 11:20 p.m


Soaked California storms worsened the drought

Atmospheric rivers rush California since late last year have blanketed the mountains with snow for the entire winter and started to raise reservoir levels – but experts say much more rainfall will be needed to reverse the effects of years of drought.

The U.S. Drought Monitor’s weekly update released Thursday showed that “extreme” drought was virtually eliminated a week after the worst category — “exceptional” — was washed off the map. Two weeks ago, extreme drought covered 35% of California.

A series of drenched California storms worsened the drought

Atmospheric rivers that have been pounding California since late last year have blanketed the mountains with snow all winter and started to raise reservoir levels, but experts say much more rain will be needed to reverse the effects of years of drought.

Oliver O’ConnellJanuary 12, 2023 10:50 p.m


What to expect on Friday and over the weekend

The West Coast will continue to be stuck in a storm pattern this weekend with two low pressure systems expected to affect the coast. The first system will remain just offshore over the Pacific until Friday, then gradually dissipate Friday evening. The second system will approach early Saturday and move ashore by Saturday evening. Both systems will be accompanied by abundant moisture and cause widespread rainfall.

The heaviest rainfall will remain concentrated along the coasts of Northern California and the Pacific Northwest through Friday night, then will spread south on Saturday and east on Sunday.

Northern California has been hit by heavy rainfall over the past few weeks, and any additional rain could pose a threat of flash flooding. Precipitation will fall as snow in the higher elevations of the west this weekend, with heavy mountain snow possible in parts of the Sierra Nevada and Cascades. Heavy mountain snow may also be possible for the higher peaks of the central and southern Rockies.

NOAA forecast for the continental United States on January 15, 2023


Oliver O’ConnellJanuary 12, 2023 10:20 p.m

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