California’s governor has declared a state of emergency as residents prepare for a major storm – the second to flood the state last week.
The storm is expected to develop into a bomb cyclone, producing rains and blizzards that could cause flooding and landslides in already soaked areas.
Northern California is expected to be hit the hardest, with a fatal levee burst over the weekend.
The storm also brings strong winds to areas along the west coast of the United States.
The National Weather Service (NWS) issued a flood and high wind warning for the entire bay area in northern California, saying gusts could topple trees and cause power outages.
“Put simply, it will likely be one of the most impactful large-scale systems this meteorologist has seen in a long time,” the NWS forecaster for the region said in a weather advisory.
“Effects will include widespread flooding, road washing, hillside collapse, downed trees (potentially full groves), widespread power outages, immediate disruption to trade and worst of all, possibly loss of human life,” he added.
“It’s a really brutal system that we’re looking at and it needs to be taken seriously.”
It is expected to form into a bomb cyclone, a type of fast-intensifying storm more commonly seen along the east coast of the United States and Canada.
State of emergency
In a statement declaring a state of emergency on Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom said his order “allows the state to respond quickly as the storm develops and support local officials in their ongoing response.”
An atmospheric river – a long, narrow stream of warm air carrying moisture from the tropics – is expected to fall on ground that has already been saturated with rainfall.
It is expected to hit its strongest on Wednesday night into Thursday morning before expanding into southern California on Thursday evening.
Just a year after California recorded one of its driest years on record, San Francisco on Saturday recorded its second wettest day in more than 170 years.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed said the city was “preparing for war” and was sending sandbags around the city to prevent flooding.
Rivers along the coast are predicted to have extensive flooding due to high tides. The storm is expected to drop up to 6 inches (15 cm) of rain in coastal areas, with gusts up to 80 miles per hour (128 km/h) over coastal hills and mountains.
An evacuation order was issued in Santa Cruz County, south of San Francisco, due to a “high probability” that some neighborhoods would become inaccessible due to flooding.
According to the NWS, more than 105 million people across the United States are currently at risk from severe weather conditions.
Further east, some 30 million people are facing major storms that have already spawned tornadoes in several states.