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Atmospheric rivers unleash havoc across California: Floods, power outages, and emergency responses engulf the state


California is grappling with the onslaught of a potent atmospheric river, marking the second such event in quick succession, that barraged the state on Sunday. This formidable weather phenomenon has inflicted widespread flooding, power disruptions affecting over 845,000 residents, and has prompted an uncommon alert for hurricane-force winds, as the region steadies itself for a protracted spell of intense rainfall.
The tempest has swamped streets, toppled trees, and severed electrical lines, particularly ravaging the San Francisco Bay Area, where wind velocities surpassed 60 mph (96 kph), escalating to over 80 mph (128 kph) in mountainous locales.Southward, in San Jose, emergency services were seen rescuing individuals from a car besieged by floodwaters and aiding those in a homeless encampment near a swelling river.
Southern California confronts its own set of perils, with authorities sounding alarms about potentially catastrophic flooding and mandating evacuations, especially in areas recently scarred by wildfires, now vulnerable to mud and debris flows. The National Weather Service’s Los Angeles office has forewarned of “one of the most dramatic weather days in recent memory.”
In preparation, residents have been seeking essentials like sandbags, flashlights, and generators. The Santa Barbara Home Improvement Center, as mentioned by assistant manager Lupita Vital, experienced a sell-out of sandbags, leading people to resort to alternatives like potting soil and fertilizer for safeguarding their premises.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown emphasized the gravity of the situation, branding the storm as potentially one of the county’s most formidable, while underlining the objective to avert fatalities and serious injuries. This sentiment is echoed across various sectors, with schools across the county preemptively closing on Monday, an aftermath of the devastation wrought by the 2018 mudslides.
The coastal city of Ventura is also witnessing perilous conditions, as articulated by resident Alexis Herrera, who highlighted the inundation of freeways and the challenges posed to mobility.
The storm’s ramifications extend beyond natural landscapes, affecting infrastructural networks, with nearly 846,000 households deprived of electricity, predominantly in coastal regions. The weather scenario has even raised the specter of tornadoes, a rarity, as mentioned by the Storm Prediction Center, with the last such forecast dating back to February 2015.
Transportation sectors are not spared, with the San Francisco International Airport experiencing significant delays, as reported by FlightAware. The storm’s impact is not confined to the skies, as the Sierra Nevada braces for a substantial snow deluge, prompting advisories against mountain travel.
In a broader context, the storm, identified as a “Pineapple Express” due to its moisture trail from near Hawaii, represents a continuation of a preceding weather system that doused the state. The magnitude of the storm has necessitated a “hurricane force wind warning” for parts of the Central Coast, while the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am has been rescheduled in the wake of the tempest.
The situation remains fraught with danger and complexity, as underscored by Ryan Kittell, a meteorologist with the Los Angeles-area weather service office. The slow-moving nature of the storm’s core augments the risks of strong winds, high rainfall totals, and consequent flooding.
Evacuation directives are in place across various counties, with an emphasis on areas prone to mudslides, especially those adjacent to wildfire scars. The gravity of the situation is recognized at the highest levels, with Governor Gavin Newsom declaring a state of emergency for multiple counties and mobilizing emergency response mechanisms.
The storm, poised to traverse down the coast, continues to pose threats of heavy rain, flash-flooding, and snow across different parts of the state. The weather service’s LA-area office has starkly labeled the system as “dangerous,” with significant risks to life and property, urging residents to adhere to evacuation orders and avoid roads, particularly freeways.
In the backdrop of these events, life attempts to proceed with a semblance of normalcy, with the Los Angeles Unified School District planning to function as usual, albeit with a readiness to reassess the decision based on evolving conditions.
The unfolding scenario paints a picture of a state under siege by nature’s forces, prompting a multifaceted emergency response and a collective resolve to weather the storm with resilience and preparedness.
(With inputs from agencies)

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