People load up on sand at a fire station in Redding, Calif., on Tuesday. The city offered up to 25 free sandbags to residents in preparation for a series of major rainstorms heading to the region.(Photo: Andreas Fuhrmann, AP)
An intense storm will slam into Northern California on Wednesday with
strong winds and heavy rain, the first in a series of powerful storms
forecast to hit the state over the next several days. Wednesday's storm
should roar into the San Francisco area with lightning and wind in the
morning before moving inland.
Rain totals should top a foot in
some spots by the time the storms end Sunday, and wind gusts are
expected to howl up to 95 mph in the mountains.
The rain will
likely lead to flash and river floods, along with mudslides and debris
flows, says George Cline, a meteorologist with the National Weather
Service in Sacramento.
Debris flows are when water, rocks, trees, clay, mud and dirt careen down mountainsides scorched bare by earlier wildfires.
weather service is warning that power outages should be expected in
Northern California because of downed trees and limbs. Cline says this
will be the most rain California has seen since last year.
storms, which are rotating around a large area of low pressure in the
Gulf of Alaska, will be fueled in part by the so-called "pineapple
express," an atmospheric river of tropical moisture that moves from the
Hawaiian Islands to the West Coast.
Meteorologists use the term
"atmospheric river" to describe a long, narrow plume that pipes moisture
from the tropics into the USA, according to Weather Channel
meteorologist Jonathan Erdman. The pineapple express typically runs a
few times each winter.
Separate storms will move along this
"river" every day through Sunday, according to AccuWeather meteorologist
Ken Clark. Although each individual storm wouldn't be enough to cause
major problems, Clark says it's the cumulative effect of the storms that
could cause the flooding problems.
The heaviest rain is likely
for higher elevations northeast of Sacramento, Clark reports. In
general, by Sunday, rain amounts of 3-7 inches are forecast in the
valleys, 6-12 in the foothills and 10 to 20 in the mountains, the
weather service forecasts.
Southern Oregon will also see heavy
rain and strong winds from the storms. However, Southern California will
not see the level of rain that Northern California is expected to get.
storms will produce up to at least a foot of snow over the highest
elevations of the Sierra, the Bitterroots, Tetons and the Washington
Cascades, Erdman says.
The news isn't all bad, as rain events such
as this bring the needed water that California depends on for
agriculture and for its reservoirs. However, this could be "too much in
too short of a time," Clark says.