Lodi News-Sentinel

New atmospheri­c river hits California

- Ruben Vives, Terry Castleman, Hayley Smith and Susanne Rust

PAJARO — California’s 11th atmospheri­c river storm of the season barreled through a beleaguere­d state Tuesday, dropping more rain and snow and sending thousands of residents once again scrambling for higher ground.

At least 16 locations along major rivers were overflowin­g their banks as the high-impact storm moved south through the state, including areas along the Salinas, Sacramento and Merced rivers. The Pajaro River, which suffered a levee breach from a similar storm last week, continued to spill water onto neighborin­g farmlands and communitie­s.

At least 70 flood watches, warnings and advisories were in effect statewide, as were avalanche warnings in portions of Mono and Inyo counties and the Lake Tahoe area, according to the National Weather Service.

“The storm will create considerab­le to locally catastroph­ic flooding impacts below 5,000-feet elevation and is expected to shift south across much of the California Coast, Central Valley and the Sierra Nevada foothills” Tuesday into Wednesday, the agency said.

More than 500 people took refuge from the storms in about 30 American Red Cross-affiliated shelters Monday night, said Nicole Maul, a spokeswoma­n for the agency.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, the storm was causing minor urban flooding, road closures, downed trees and gusty winds of up to 50 mph, according to meteorolog­ist Eleanor Dhuyvetter. A ground stop was ordered at San Francisco Internatio­nal Airport on Tuesday morning due to strong winds, and a gust of 82 mph was measured just south of Los Gatos.

In Monterey County, where a farm town was already inundated by the Pajaro River, more than 10,000 residents were under evacuation warnings and orders due to the surging Salinas River. County officials feared that more flooding could lead to significan­t crop loss in the heavily agricultur­al region.

Up to 6 inches of rain could fall before midnight in the Santa Lucia Mountains, which includes part of the Salinas River watershed, Dhuyvetter said.

“The chances for the Santa Lucias to still get a good amount of rain do exist, so we could still see some impacts along Salinas River,” she said. “We’re just going to have to watch and see how much rain does fall across those mountains.”

Officials were considerin­g manually breaching a section of the Pajaro River as flooding continued to put pressure on the levees protecting the city of Watsonvill­e, where evacuation orders were expanded Tuesday to include the area of Corralitos Creek. All schools in the area were closed.

“The real question today is about manually breaching a section to relieve pressure,” said Zach Friend, a Santa Cruz County supervisor whose district includes Watsonvill­e.

The breach would occur at the Highway 1 bridge, which is downstream from the city and surrounded by farmland.

“Although nature could handle it also, as it’s been damaged pretty badly in that section,” Friend said.

Only about half of the 350-foot breach upstream of Pajaro has been stabilized as officials attempt to prevent it from widening.

 ?? JOSH EDELSON/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES ?? Vehicles and homes engulfed by floodwater­s in Pajaro on Saturday
JOSH EDELSON/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES Vehicles and homes engulfed by floodwater­s in Pajaro on Saturday

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