FILE PHOTO: A general view shows flooded streets in Pajaro, California, U.S., March 12, 2023, in this screengrab obtained from a social media video. Instagram @terrywayphoto via REUTERS
By Brendan O’Brien
(Reuters) – California, reeling from a month-long string of winter storms, was preparing for another bout of rain, wind and snow on Monday, while New Englanders awaited a brewing Nor’easter across the region.
On the West Coast, the storm targeted areas of northern and Central California already saturated from the unusual bout of bad weather. It promised to dump as much as seven inches (18 cm) of rain in higher elevations and up to three inches elsewhere, the National Weather Service said in its forecast.
Winds of 70 miles per hour were also forecast while five feet of snow was possible in higher parts of the state.
“We’re going to see trees down, power outages. We just can’t get a break right now,” Brian May, a spokesman for California’s Office of Emergency Services, told MSNBC on Monday, adding that 40 of 58 counties were under a state of emergency.
“Stay on high alert,” May urged, calling on residents to evacuate when local officials issue orders.
The storm was the product of what meteorologists call an atmospheric river, a high-altitude current of dense, subtropical moisture streaming into the West Coast from the warm Pacific waters around Hawaii.
It is the latest round of heavy precipitation for California where recent blizzards paralyzed places in the San Bernardino Mountains and downpours and snowmelt left many low-lying communities under water over the weekend.
Drone footage above Monterey County showed entire neighborhoods inundated by brown waters after a levee on the Pajaro River failed. Evacuation warnings and orders across the county of 430,000 residents remained in place on Monday.
Some 250 miles to the southeast, fire crews and rescue workers in Kern County, home to about 900,000, were clearing roads and assessing the damage from flooding over the weekend, as officials warned residents to heed evacuation orders.
The storms also triggered a debris flow that closed Highway 1, a scenic north-south route on the Pacific Coast, just south of Big Sur.
The growing frequency and intensity of such storms amid bouts of prolonged drought are symptomatic of human-caused climate change, experts say.
Some 2,500 miles to the east, a Nor’easter storm was forecast to dump as much as 16 inches of heavy snow and whip winds of up to 45 miles (72 km) per hour from Pennsylvania up into Maine starting on Monday night and into Wednesday, the National Weather Service said in a winter storm warning.
The storm in the Northeast threatened to produce wet snow that could topple power lines and trees, causing power outages. It was also likely to result in very low visibility on roadways, making travel very difficult to impossible, the service said.
“New Yorkers, now is the time to get supplies & plan ahead for the next three days,” Governor Kathy Hochul said in a Tweet on Sunday.