Heavy rain and snow were expected to keep falling across much of California into Wednesday, unleashing a new round of flooding and power outages in areas where successive storms have disrupted life over the past few weeks.
As snow covered portions of Interstate 80 in Northern California on Tuesday, flooding prompted the temporary closure of other roadways further south, including several in Santa Cruz County and a portion of the Pacific Coast Highway, south of Los Angeles.
By early Wednesday morning, more than 150,000 utility customers statewide were without power, mainly in the San Francisco Bay Area, and millions of residents were ” rel=”noopener noreferrer” target=”_blank”>under flood watches. A rare tornado warning had briefly been issued west of Los Angeles.
The “atmospheric river” storm system was forecast to bring several inches of rain to parts of Southern California by Wednesday morning, creating the potential for more flooding in areas where soil is already saturated from weeks of precipitation, according to a National Weather Service forecast.
High winds were also expected overnight, along with more downed trees and power lines. Higher elevations could receive several feet of snow, with avalanches possible, the agency said. The storm was forecast to move across the Southwest and into the Rocky Mountains by early Thursday.
Warnings about winter weather and high winds were gradually lifted across the state on Tuesday evening. The storm was not expected to bring as much moisture to the state as some of the recent atmospheric rivers that had inundated Central California.
But it was still causing trouble in several counties.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, Stanford University canceled final exams on Tuesday because of a widespread power outage, the school’s emergency information center said. One of the main transmission lines that feeds the campus was affected by the storm.
In the Sacramento area, forecasters warned of hail, lightning and gusty winds in some areas as rain fell in a north-south band from Redding to San Francisco on Tuesday night.
In Central California, where a flood watch was in effect until 11 p.m., The authorities were keeping an eye on extremely high water levels in rivers, creeks and steams. They said heavy rain below 4,000 feet could cause flooding into Wednesday night.
Meteorologists were also tracking heavy thunderstorms moving across Tulare County, which has been flooded during previous storms this year. Officials had started going door to door there on Sunday to urge residents in portions of that county to evacuate.
On Tuesday evening in Southern California, the National Weather Service issued a rare tornado warning for parts of Ventura and Los Angeles counties. The warning expired after 12 minutes, and the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office later said that there was no evidence a tornado had touched down in the area.
As the storm approached earlier in the week, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services had said that residents should be prepared to evacuate if needed. It also urged them to have emergency kits ready at home and vehicles full of fuel.
But the system was expected to have less moisture than the recent back-to-back storm systems that brought heavy rain and flooding to Central California, said Ashton Robinson Cook, a meteorologist with the Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center.
“We don’t think the rain totals will be as extreme,” Mr. Cook said on Monday. “We’re not expecting the impacts to be nearly anything like what we experienced, especially in Central California, last week.”
The United States and other parts of the world have already seen an increase in the frequency of extreme rainstorms as the world warms. The frequency is likely to increase as warming continues. One basic reason is that warmer air holds more moisture.
California is trying to recover from a series of storms that have brought heavy rain and snow, causing flooding in portions of the state. It is the second snowiest season in the Central Sierras since researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, began keeping records in 1946. This season, 677 inches of snow have fallen there, the researchers said, compared to a record 812 inches in 1952.
In January, an atmospheric river prompted evacuation orders for more than 40,000 Californians and left more than 220,000 utility customers without power. That storm was part of a three-week series of atmospheric rivers that inundated much of the state, damaging infrastructure and setting off flooding.
The severe weather events in California continued into February, when storms brought heavy flooding to Los Angeles County and whiteouts at higher elevations, and into March, when Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in several counties affected by winter storms that dumped as much as 10 feet of snow in parts of Southern California, leaving some people stranded for days.
After that storm, yet another atmospheric river hit California. It washed out portions of roadways, prompted evacuations, caused power outages — particularly in the central region — and contributed to at least one death.
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