NEW YORK (REUTERS) – A powerful storm drenched wildfire-scarred northern California on Sunday (Oct 24), triggering mudslides and downing electric lines with winds blasting San Francisco as the “bomb cyclone” headed south.
Up to 10 inches of rain was expected to wash over the West Coast, said meteorologist Marc Chenard of the Weather Prediction Centre at the National Weather Service.
“It’s an atmospheric river already moving through northern California,” he added, describing the storm as a “bomb cyclone,” an intense weather event when the barometric pressure drops quickly.
The weather whiplash follows the busiest wildfire season in California history and heightens threats of flash flooding. Much of the region is in severe, extreme or exceptional drought, as classified by the US Drought Monitor.
“Burn scars, that’s the area where the water tends to run off quicker so that’s where the biggest flash flood risks are,” Chenard said. “Warnings are of life-threatening flash flooding in and around the burn scars.”
Multiple mudslides were already reported in some of the 570,000 acres (230,670 hectares) blackened by the Dixie Fire in the rugged Sierra Nevada mountains northeast of San Francisco, the second-largest wildfire recorded in state history, he said.
Winds over 50 miles per hour gusted through San Francisco and triggered power outages around Sacramento, where residents tweeted photographs of toppled utility poles smashing cars and blocking roadways and as much as 5 inches of rain was predicted.
Sandbags were being handed out and evacuation centers were opened in Sacramento. The Sacramento Office of Emergency Service tweeted “Remember – never drive through standing water! Turn around, don’t drown!” Snow was expected in higher elevations, Chenard said.
“It’s a pretty impressive storm system,” Chenard said. “It’s happening now and it’s going to continue into the day tomorrow.
It will be gradually shifting southward across Central California tonight and tomorrow.”
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