‘Pineapple express’ hits California

About 15 million people were put under flood watches in California over the weekend as the state braced itself for the impact of freak weather conditions.

Part of a powerful atmospheric river known as a ‘Pineapple express’ for the warm, subtropical moisture it brings from Hawaii, this latest storm is also expected to speed the melting of the considerable snowpack that has built up in higher elevations of the state, while the resulting runoff threatens to aggravate already serious flooding.

A risk of excessive rainfall, a level 2 out of 4, was issued across portions of the northern California coast as well as down the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Widespread rainfall totals of 1 to 3 inches are expected Saturday.

Evacuations orders were expanded in Tulare County to include the community of Teviston, as well as parts of Cutler and Exeter because river flow had increased, according to the county sheriff’s office. Officials urged residents to stay clear of waterways and avoid all unnecessary travel.

On Friday (10 March), US President Joe Biden (pic) approved an emergency declaration that clears the way to expedite federal aid to the western state.

Biden called Governor Gavin Newsom on Saturday to reaffirm full federal support for the impact of flooding and landslides on the state, a White House report said. Newsom said California was “deploying every tool we have to protect communities from the relentless and deadly storms battering our state”.

The latest extreme weather follows a difficult start to the year for California. Moody’s reported in January atmospheric river storms that battered Northern California with heavy rains, fierce winds and mudslides was already expected to result in insured losses of about $5.4 billion.