California braces for further destructive storms

A seventh consecutive atmospheric river since Christmas has meant more rain on Northern California this week, with another one expected this weekend, according to the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center.

The storms have killed at least 17 people since the start of the year, California Governor Gavin Newsom said.

Downtown San Francisco recorded 13.6 inches (34.5 cm) of rain from 25 Dec – 12 January, as San Francisco International Airport, the city of Oakland and the city of Stockton all recorded 16-day records over the same period, the National Weather Service said.

Large stretches of central California received over half their normal annual rainfall since 26 Dec.

Atmospheric rivers are characterized by dense moisture funnelled into California from the tropical Pacific.

Gusts of wind were shaking trees and rainfall was consistent throughout the morning of 12 January along the coast of Mendocino County, about 160 miles (260 km) north of San Francisco. Large trees toppled and debris were left behind by a wild ocean. The toll was evident along Highway 1, with utility trucks deploying toward power outages.

Dozens of roadways across the state were made impassable by mudslides and snow as the state’s department of transportation on Wednesday strongly urged drivers to stay off the roads until crews could clear the way.

Wind gusts have downed powerlines, knocking out electricity to 54,000 homes and businesses as of Wednesday afternoon, according to data from Poweroutage.us, down from nearly half a million outages over the weekend.

However, the rain has helped alleviate but has not ended a two-decade drought. State-wide reservoir storage is only 82% of average for this time of year, the state Department of Water Resources said, warning that the remainder of the rainy season could underperform and result in a lower than average rainfall year.

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