California Flooding Expected To Worsen Through Wednesday With ‘Atmospheric River’ Flowing

The California flooding is expected to worsen overnight from Tuesday into Wednesday as a second storm lashes the West Coast, according to Accuweather. So far, the storm has caused thousands of people to evacuate their homes in Northern California. The weekend storm that hit Central and Northern California caused many rivers to swell to at flood stage, or above it. Rivers at or above the flooding stage include the Middle Fork Feather, Eel, Russian, Navarro, and Sacramento.

Throughout Tuesday, emergency crews worked hard to reinforce the levee along the Consumnes River in Sacramento County, but a Sacramento County emergency official believes that the water will spill over the levee before Midnight, which will lead to flooding in low-lying areas around it. Up to a foot of floodwater is expected at present.

Submerged playground in California flooding.

At 6:29 p.m. the National Weather service issued a flood warning for Sacramento County.

“At 625 PM PST, Doppler radar indicated moderate to locally heavy rainfall spreading across the southern sacramento and northern san joaquin valleys. Additional rainfall of.25 to.75 inches can be expected in the Central Valley for this area with 1 to 2.5 inches in the motherlode and the mountains below the snow level overnight and into Wednesday morning. Elsewhere further north lighter amounts of rain is expected overnight and small creek and rivers should start to recede overnight but are expected to remain much higher than normal into wednesday morning.”

The National Weather Service expects to see small rivers and streams rising to above flooding stage overnight in Central California counties under the flood warning. They also remind residents that if one sees a flooded area, please turn around and find an alternate route. Most flooding deaths occur in vehicles.

Along with the threat of flooding, there is also a high threat of danger from rockslides and mudslides. California endured a drought for several years, which intensifies this concern along with flooding. Also, the soil is now saturated, which increases the likelihood of flash flooding.

Accuweather is also painting a grim picture for snowfall amounts in the Central and Northern California mountains, with the higher elevations receiving from three to five feet of snow. Because the inbound storm is heading directly for those mountains, meteorologists expect the highest precipitation amounts on the slopes of the mountains facing the storm, and flooding in the rivers and streams beneath them in the Central Valley area of California. Accuweather also does not expect much relief for the California flooding until possibly Thursday, as the storm will push onshore throughout the day on Wednesday. California could also see more rain in the coming weekend as a third system works its way onshore. The National Weather Service advises any residents living near a small river or stream to monitor it and evaluate their flood risk in the event they should need to evacuate.

Rockslide in California flooding

The string of storms and the flooding are a function of what is known as an “atmospheric river.” This condition in the atmosphere allows moisture to travel from as far away as Hawaii, before being released over California and the West Coast. Its results can be catastrophic flooding, but also a serious blizzard. Scott McGuire, a Reno-based forecaster for the National Weather Service, says that travel in the mountains is unwise, characterizing the storm as a “life-threatening situation.”

As a final note, Accuweather also points out that high winds will accompany the new California storm. With the ground already saturated, this could lead to a threat from collapsing trees or power lines as well as flooding. It can also lead to scattering debris, making the roads more dangerous to travel.

The common thread among all of the flooding reports is a warning about the dangers of this storm, and the encouragement to remain vigilant. Residents near rivers at or above flooding stage in North and Central California should be alert for evacuation orders and constantly monitor emergency broadcasts. All residents should avoid traveling unless it is necessary.

[Featured Image by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]