‘Atmospheric River’ to Bring Heavy Rain, Snow, and Debris Flows to California

First a drought, and now a deluge.

A powerful “atmospheric river” was headed for California on Tuesday, bringing the threat of torrential downpours that could unleash destructive debris flows from wildfire burn scars as well as a massive dump of snow in the Sierra Nevada.

“Even though precipitation is greatly needed across the drought-stricken state, the storm will bring too much all at once and lead to serious flooding concerns,” AccuWeather meteorologist Jake Sojda said. The storm will start late Tuesday and could last into Thursday.

Evacuation orders were in effect for areas of fire-scarred Santa Cruz County, and evacuation warnings were issued in San Mateo County.

“If you have not already heeded local county advice don’t wait any longer. This morning is the time to act and prepare if you`re near a burn area,” the National Weather Service office for the San Francisco Bay Area wrote.

Debris flows – torrents carrying massive boulders, soil, trees and other objects – are considered more dangerous than mudslides or landslides. The Jan. 9, 2018, debris flow that blasted the Santa Barbara County community of Montecito killed 23 people.

While coastal areas prepared for rain, snow will be the big story in the mountains. Up to 10 feet of snow is possible in some mountainous areas, forecasters warned, with whiteout conditions possible: “Ground travel will be difficult, if not impossible, at times, especially in the Sierra,” the National Weather Service in Reno, Nevada, said in an online forecast. “Even a walk outside can become deadly in these conditions.”

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SOURCE: USA Today, Doyle Rice