Heavy winds pummeled the Sacramento region late Saturday night, toppling trees and knocking out power for more than 300,000 customers, as California braced for yet another series of storms this week that could bring additional flooding, more outages and tree damage, as well as dangerous mudslides and mountain snow.
Wind speeds topped out at nearly 70 miles per hour on Saturday night and early Sunday morning in the Sacramento area. At least one person was killed, a homeless woman struck by a falling tree, the Sacramento Fire Department said.
The storm followed a week of downpours across California that caused widespread flooding and felled countless trees. Six people were killed, including a toddler struck by a tree that crashed into his home in Sonoma County.
The state is being hit by a family of atmospheric rivers — huge plumes of water vapor in the sky — in rapid succession. The most potent is expected to arrive Monday through Tuesday, renewing concerns from meteorologists of widespread damage.
“The West Coast remains under the target of a relentless parade of cyclones that form and intensify over the Pacific Ocean while moving directly toward the North American continent,” forecasters at the Weather Prediction Center said on Sunday morning.
Heavy snow and rain fell in Northern and Central California over Saturday night, and heavier precipitation was expected to ease toward the end of Sunday.
There will be a brief break from the heaviest rain overnight. What some forecasters in the Los Angeles weather office are calling the “main show” starts Monday morning. This potent atmospheric river will begin in the northern part of the state on Monday before moving south through the day and into Tuesday.
According to the Weather Prediction Center, many areas could see an amount of precipitation that occurs only once every five or 10 years.
Rain totals could reach two to four inches over most areas and could be more than eight inches along the coast and coastal ranges and along the western slope of the Sierra.
“The longevity and intensity of rain, combined with the cumulative effect of successive heavy rain events dating back to the end of December, will lead to widespread and potentially significant flood impacts,” the Weather Prediction Center said Sunday morning.
The forecasters said to expect minor to isolated major river flooding, with potentially record river levels.
Forecasters also expected damaging winds of up to 60 m.p.h. Monday through Tuesday, which could lead to more widespread power outages across the region. Thunderstorms could include a brief tornado along or near parts of the central California coast.
In higher regions of the Sierra, the threat involved extreme snow that could exceed five feet. “The heavy snow loads will increase the threat of avalanches and damage to infrastructures,” the Weather Prediction Center forecasters said.
Across the Sierra, the winter storm severity index is at its highest level, meaning travel is not advised and extensive and widespread road closures and disruptions to infrastructure may occur.
This storm system will be warmer than some of the previous ones. The snowfall will start at 5,000 feet but will rise above 6,500 to 8,000 feet throughout the day, meaning that areas with fresh snow will see rain, allowing it to melt and increasing the amount of water entering creeks and rivers. The rising snow levels raised concerns of flooding, the Sacramento National Weather Service office said.
This storm system should begin to wane on Tuesday. On Wednesday, another system will begin, though it is expected to be weaker than the previous one. Any precipitation, however, will fall on a region susceptible to additional rainfall and could exacerbate swollen rivers and creeks.
There may be a brief break before another atmospheric river forecast for the weekend, which would bring more heavy rainfall and threats of flooding.
Forecasters in the San Francisco Bay Area office of the National Weather Service say that there is a 60 percent to 80 percent chance that the wetter-than-normal pattern will continue for the next couple of weeks.