Friday, 31 Mar 2023

Weather-beaten California eyes relief from constant firehose of storms

Weather-beaten California eyes relief from constant firehose of storms


Weather-beaten California eyes relief from constant firehose of storms

The sun beamed through a cloudless sky across parts of California on Thursday, offering a much-needed break from relentless rains that have drenched the state for weeks. The window of good weather wouldn't last long. The 12th atmospheric river in mere months is expected to unleash a new set of hazards across the sodden state early next week.

"[The storm] is going to exacerbate things further with the flooding and the other impacts going on unfortunately," said Jon Gottschalck, who heads the operational prediction branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (Noaa) climate prediction center, noting that more heavy rainfall and higher elevation snowfall is in the forecast. "It is also going to hamper ongoing relief efforts."

Forty of California's 58 counties remain under emergency declarations and with little time to spare before the next dousing, officials and residents across the state rushed to secure saturated hillsides and inundated infrastructure, and clear strewn debris and downed trees left behind by the last storm.

Repairs in the breached levee that left the town of Pajaro submerged are ongoing as crews work to fill holes with stones and sand. Hundreds of displaced residents who had to escape the rushing waters before dawn last Saturday remain in shelters scattered throughout the region. Some may have nothing to return to.

Down the coast, the rains chewed into mushy hillsides that line the coast in Orange county, prompting evacuations as homes dangled precariously over the bluffs that gave way behind them. Sinkholes opened in streets across the state since the storms began, swallowing cars and adding to travel headaches exacerbated by winter weather closures, flooded roadways and thoroughfares clogged with mud.

Meanwhile, mountain towns tucked along the Sierra Nevada range spent weeks socked-in by the snow that buried homes and businesses and left mounds as high as buildings. Officials have not yet determined the extent of the winter storms' damage overall, but dozens are believed to have lost their lives as a result of the severe weather since the start of the year.

The dramatic swing from devastating dryness to drenched has compounded the effects of the storms, as drought-weakened trees were easily pummeled by thrashing winds kicked up during the storms, and punched trees through windows, across roads, and into power lines, leaving thousands in the dark. Wildfire burn scars left sparsely vegetated slopes vulnerable to slides.

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