California saw thousands flee their homes as the “atmospheric rivers” struck, dumping gale-force winds on large swathes of the state. The rains also caused a significant increase in deaths.
The National Weather Service stated in a statement that California is being inundated by “the endless onslaught from potent systems with atmospheric moisture rivers” The Golden State is still under threat from torrential rain, flooding, widespread flooding, mudslides, landslides with debris flows, heavy mountain powder, and gusty high wind.
Further south, approximately 10,000 people living in the Santa Barbara County community of Montecito were forced to flee. This town is located approximately 90 miles east of Los Angeles and was the scene of five years ago’s mudslides that claimed 23 lives.
The University of California, Santa Barbara tweeted that classes were canceled due to extreme weather conditions and community safety. “Please be safe, and take great care during this difficult weather.”
Emergency responders in Ventura County saved 18 people trapped by floodwaters from an island encampment.
Forecasters predicted that Wednesday would bring more rain.
According to the weather service, “An enormous tropical cyclone will form well offshore the coast of the North American continent and will bring yet another atmospheric stream toward the West Coast.” The main target will be northerly California, along the coast of the Pacific Northwest.
More than 225,000 homes, including many in Santa Clara County south San Francisco, were without power on Tuesday. Some buildings were damaged by heavy winds, while thunderstorms were predicted for the area. Tornado warnings were also issued.
The weather service reported that California’s average rainfall has been 4 to 6 times higher than the norm over the past few weeks.
Ellen DeGeneres uploaded a video to Instagram showing flooding in Montecito. According to her, she and Portia de Rossi (an actor) were instructed to shelter in place as they are high above the ground. DeGeneres was seen wearing a raincoat and a hoodie.
According to the National Weather Service, storms have already dumped as much as 14 inches of rain in some areas of Southern and Central California.
After years of drought, the rains provide some relief. According to the weather service, many reservoirs are now at levels that are higher than their historical averages, and water levels are increasing quickly.
The storm system that formed Tuesday night was expected to move quickly through the western U.S. and then emerge in the central Plains on Wednesday.
California storms or climate change?
California could be facing “parade storms” in the coming weeks. This is on top of the recent deluges which have left at least 14 dead, caused flooding, shut down power, and forced evacuations along the coast. While California’s weather patterns have been consistent for millennia and include dry winters and wet summers, it begs the question: Is this year’s storm unusual?
Over hundreds of years, weather patterns have shown that there are periods of extreme drought and periods when the state is wet. These last few years have seen severe drought. Extreme wetness has prevailed over the past two weeks.
“We have become used to very dry conditions in recent years and a lot of winters which didn’t feel like winter in most of California over the past decade,” stated Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “And that’s both uncommon, but also common in the longer context.”