This week’s “Pineapple Express” — called that because its plume of moisture stretches back across the Pacific to near Hawaii — will be followed by an even more powerful storm on Sunday, forecasters said.
The storm, having initially battered the San Francisco Bay Area, shifted its wrath towards Southern California. Cities like Los Angeles and San Diego grappled with heavy downpours, affecting the morning commute and everyday life. National Weather Service forecaster Bob Oravec highlighted the unique interaction of these atmospheric rivers with the West Coast’s topography, often leading to substantial rainfall.
Community at risk
The storm’s fury has led to harrowing incidents, such as the trapping of a girl by a fallen 100-foot redwood tree in Saratoga and widespread flash flooding in southern Los Angeles County. Rescue operations, like those by the Orange County Fire Authority, have been pivotal in safeguarding lives amidst the chaos.
Flooding, mud flows and rock slides forced the closure of numerous other roads across the region, including a busy tunnel passage that connects Pacific Coast Highway with a freeway in Santa Monica and a major freeway on-ramp in LA’s San Fernando Valley.
The California Highway Patrol reported at least 50 spinouts and crashes in central Los Angeles Thursday morning, and firefighters rescued a man trapped in an Orange County flood-control channel, according to the Los Angeles City News Service.
The impact on local communities has been profound. In San Diego, residents like Ruben Gomez find themselves in a relentless battle against the elements, safeguarding homes and neighborhoods from the relentless downpour. The situation is a grim reminder of last winter’s catastrophic atmospheric rivers, which claimed over 20 lives and inflicted extensive property damage.
The Sierra Nevada is witnessing a significant snowfall, crucial for the state’s water supply but also a harbinger of potential future hazards. With the second atmospheric river predicted to be even more formidable, concerns are mounting over continuous rainfall, snowfall at higher elevations, and the risks of mudslides and catastrophic flooding.
The city of Long Beach exemplifies the storm’s destructive capacity, with flooded freeways and stranded vehicles. Stories of narrow escapes and heroic rescues underscore the human element amidst the natural turmoil. The state, still recovering from last winter’s deadly storms, faces the paradox of these atmospheric rivers: vital for addressing drought concerns yet potentially devastating in their immediate impact.
In light of the looming threat, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services is on high alert, with activation of the operations center and strategic positioning of personnel and resources. Brian Ferguson, the office’s deputy director of crisis communications, stressed the widespread nature of the threat, spanning from Oregon’s border to San Diego, and from coastal regions to mountainous areas.
A looming future
While these atmospheric rivers are critical for California’s water reserves, especially the Sierra snowpack, the warmer nature of these storms and the broader implications of climate change foreshadow a complex and challenging future. Scientists warn of increasing frequency and intensity of such phenomena, urging preparedness and resilience in the face of an evolving climate landscape.
As California braces for the full force of these atmospheric rivers, the state stands at the intersection of immediate crisis management and long-term climate strategy, highlighting a pressing need for adaptive measures and proactive environmental stewardship.
(With inputs from agencies)