During Sunday’s storm, flooding from a ‘bomb cyclone’ is probable in parts of California.
The National Weather Service warns that an extreme weather system will strike the West Coast this weekend, bringing “heavy rainfall” — as much as 8-10 inches of rain — to drought-stricken Northern California.
Due to the system, known as a “atmospheric river,” millions of people in Northern California were at risk of flash Flooding on Sunday, according to the Weather Prediction Center on Saturday. Meanwhile, residents in a tiny section of coastal Santa Barbara County were ordered to evacuate on Friday owing to mudslide worries.
On Saturday night, the weather system is forecast to make landfall on the coast. Some places may see a “bomb cyclone,” a meteorological phenomena in which air pressure rapidly lowers as the storm intensifies explosively.
Separately, a weather system now forming in the Central United States is projected to travel east in the coming days, affecting millions of people in the Midwest. The powerful system is expected to produce heavy rain to majority of Missouri as well as areas of Illinois, Nebraska, Kansas, and Iowa.
However, experts warn that the significant rain in the drought-stricken West, although welcome, has risks, particularly in places that have recently burnt in wildfires.
The evacuation order pertains to a portion of California’s Gaviota coast approximately 30 miles west of Santa Barbara that was damaged by the Alisal Fire, which started on October 11 and destroyed 12 houses. According to Mike Eliason, a spokesperson for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, the fire is currently 97 percent controlled and will be doused by the oncoming rain.
According to Eliason, the evacuation order affects an estimated 200 residences, which are at risk of rubble falling down the steep hillsides onto properties or into streets, which might potentially be shut for weeks.
“There are a lot of rocks waiting to fall down the hillside up in the canyons,” Eliason remarked. “As a result, both individuals in the path of those rocks and those living above them may be impacted.”
The historically dry soils should soak up the rain, and major rivers aren’t predicted to flood, according to Marty Ralph, director of the University of California, San Diego’s Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes.
“For the most part, there will be a lot of advantages to come out of this storm,” said “I’m sure there will be some damage because of Flooding but it will make a dent in the drought and put a stop to the main fire season in the Northern California region.”
Ralph advised the people to keep an eye on local news outlets and the National Weather Service for updates on the weather, which can never be completely forecast.
Mankin, who also co-chairs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Drought Task Force, said the unusual weather patterns are symbolic of California’s more variable environment as a result of climate change.
The weekend’s rains will do little to restore Colorado River water reserves, which are historically low, according to Mankin. They will also do nothing to help the state’s dwindling groundwater reserves.
“While a storm like this is certainly wonderful, it would be preferable if it weren’t such a deluge,” he remarked.
“It would be far better for drought management if this rain fell over several months.”