California under threat of flooding after storm

California finds itself under the threat of flooding on Saturday after the surge of a new storm the day before, which led to evacuation orders in several regions already victims of a particularly rainy winter in recent weeks. Up to 23 centimeters of precipitation are expected in places. This rain, coming from a rather warm depression, is likely to melt part of the exceptional snowpack accumulated over the past three months.

What cause a runoff impossible to contain for the rivers of the State. Rain on “soil saturated” with water from this winter’s storms and on “the thick snowpack will cause significant flooding”, warned the US Weather Service (NWS). At higher altitudes, snowfall over the mountains of northern California is expected to “cause traffic difficulties”.

Help is waiting

US President Joe Biden on Friday approved a declaration of a state of emergency in California, to facilitate aid from the federal state. “California is deploying all the tools at its disposal to protect communities from the relentless and deadly storms that are hitting our state,” said Governor Gavin Newsom, who was calling for this emergency assistance.

Numerous evacuation orders have been issued, particularly in northern California, where seven rivers could experience major floods. California, the most populous state in the country, has a particularly rainy winter. In January in particular, a series of storms caused multiple floods, landslides and falling trees, leading to the death of 20 people.

“Pineapple Express”

The current storm is fed, like most others this winter, by an “atmospheric river”, a gigantic corridor of rain that carries water vapor stored in the tropics, often around Hawaii, which brings them the nickname of “Pineapple Express”. “Stay home tonight if you can,” the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, near San Francisco, advised on Twitter. A car was crushed by a falling tree in the area, in Redwood City, but the driver and passenger are expected to be fine, according to the sheriff.

In eastern California, the Sierra Nevada mountain range has been covered in much thicker than normal snowpack for weeks. Faced with new snowfall on Friday, several ski resorts in the region closed their doors. In South Lake Tahoe, the weight of accumulated snow caused the roof of a gas station to collapse, sparking a fire, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Local firefighters told the daily that several similar incidents had taken place in recent days. “No one was injured in any of these incidents, which is remarkable,” said one of their managers, Kim George.

The Oscars ceremony maintained

Further south, in the San Bernardino Mountains near Los Angeles, some villages are just beginning to become accessible again, after being cut off from the world for several days, even weeks for some hamlets. Some residents have expressed annoyance at the slow turnaround, and one man even stole a municipal snow plow in Big Bear last Saturday.

In the powder, however, he failed to cover his tracks: the machine was equipped with a tracking device, and he was easily arrested by the police. In Los Angeles itself, the storm has complicated preparations for the Oscars ceremony, scheduled for Sunday. On Friday, the preparation teams placed buckets along the red carpet, to collect the rain that flowed under the tent covering the area. The water threatened to ruin the large golden statues set up for the event.

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