The Reporter (Vacaville)

Storm pushes into the state

- By John Antczak

The first in a new series of atmospheri­c rivers flowed into California on Thursday, and forecaster­s warned that widespread heavy rain would raise the threat of flooding in a state still digging out from earlier storms.

Rain spread across the north by early afternoon. But forecaster­s said the heart of the atmospheri­c river wouldn't arrive until late in the day. The heaviest rains were expected to last into early today, followed by lesser precipitat­ion.

The flood threat will come from the combinatio­n of rain and the melting of lower parts of the huge snowpack built in California's mountains by nine atmospheri­c rivers early in the winter and later storms fueled by a blast of arctic air.

The new atmospheri­c river is a type known as a “Pineapple Express” because it is a deep tap of warm subtropica­l moisture stretching over the Pacific to Hawaii. Its greatest impacts were expected in northern and central California, with much less precipitat­ion in the south.

The snowpack at high elevations is so massive it should be able absorb the rain, forecaster­s said. But elevations below 4,000 feet will see melting and runoff.

The California Department of Water Resources activated its flood operations center, Director Karla Nemeth said.

“All of this could contribute to significan­t runoff,” Nemeth said, urging people to be prepared because conditions can be stronger than predicted and rivers and creeks can rise quickly.

Evacuation warnings were issued for foothill and mountain communitie­s in central Califor

nia that are prone to flooding and mudslides. Residents were urged to prepare to leave at a moment's notice if the warnings are upgraded to orders.

Ted Craddock, deputy director of the State Water Project, expressed confidence in the 1960s-era Oroville Dam, where thousands of people had to evacuate in 2017 after heavy runoff collapsed the main spillway and the emergency spillway began to erode.

“The spillway has been reconstruc­ted to modern standards, and we're very confident that it will be able to pass the flows that are coming into Lake Oroville,” he said.

Forecaster­s warned that mountain travel could be difficult to impossible during the latest storm. At high elevations the storm was predicted to dump heavy snow, as much as 8 feet in some locations.

California's Sierra Nevada snowpack, which provides about a third of the state's water supply, is more than 180% of the average on April 1, when it is historical­ly at its peak.

Yet another atmospheri­c river is already in the forecast for early next week and state climatolog­ist Michael Anderson said a third appeared to be taking shape over the Pacific and possibly a fourth.

California appeared to be “well on its way to a fourth year of drought” before the early winter series of storms. “We're in a very different condition now,” he said.

So much snow has fallen in the Sierra and other mountain ranges that residents are still struggling to dig out days after earlier storms.

Roofs collapsed, cars

were buried and roads were blocked. Gov. Gavin Newsom declared emergencie­s in 13 of California's 58 counties beginning March 1.

In the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles a late February storm reached blizzard status. Mountain towns such as Lake Arrowhead were buried.

“We've been through many a snowstorm but nothing of this amount, that's for sure,” resident Alan Zagorsky, 79, said Wednesday as a crew shoveled his driveway. “Right now, they're trying to find a place they can put this


In nearby Crestline, Don Black watched as a team wielding shovels cleared his neighbor's property.

“This is the worst storm I've seen in 34 winters,” Black said.

On the state's far north coast, Humboldt County authoritie­s have organized an emergency response to feed starving cattle stranded by snow.

Cal Fire and U.S. Coast Guard helicopter­s began dropping hay bales to cattle in remote mountain fields last weekend and then the California National Guard was called in to expand the effort.

Requests for help came from about 30 ranchers, according to Diana Totten, an area fire chief. The hay is being paid for by the ranchers, who provide informatio­n on how many head of cattle need to be fed and where they were expected to be.

“We won't know until the snow melts how many cattle have died due to these conditions,” Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal said in a statement. “But I know this for certain, if we don't act, there's going to be way more that do die and it will be a catastroph­e for our county.”

 ?? MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Members of a Cal Fire crew clear snow off the roof of the town's post office after a series of storms Wednesday in Crestline.
MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Members of a Cal Fire crew clear snow off the roof of the town's post office after a series of storms Wednesday in Crestline.

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