A powerful storm known as the “Pineapple Express” has hit California, bringing torrential rain and prompting widespread evacuation orders. The storm, which is gathering warm, subtropical moisture from Hawaii, is the first of two atmospheric river storms expected to hit the region. At least one person has died in the storm, with a further employee injured after a roof collapsed at a coffee distribution warehouse in Oakland. President Biden has approved an emergency declaration request from Governor Gavin Newsom, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to support state and local responses.
California Governor Proclaims State of Emergency in 21 Counties as Storm Wreaks Havoc
Governor Newsom has already proclaimed a state of emergency in 21 counties, activating the California National Guard and other state agencies to respond to storm-related emergencies.
“California is deploying every tool we have to protect communities from the relentless and deadly storms battering our state,” he said. “In these dangerous and challenging conditions, it is crucial that Californians remain vigilant and follow all guidance from local emergency responders.”
Kris Mattarochia, science and operations officer with the National Weather Service in Hanford, described the storm as an “unrivaled, unparalleled weather event not experienced in several decades”. Forecasters predict that at least 12 areas of the state’s river systems will flood, and nearly 30 river systems are already above the “monitor stage”. Officials are making strategic releases from the state’s swelling reservoirs to make room for incoming flows, but are warning of the potential for overtopping and flooding in low-lying areas.
Officials Work to Prevent Overtopping as California Braces for Second Atmospheric River Storm
The California Department of Transportation has asked the public to limit nonessential travel during the peak of the storm in affected areas and to be extremely cautious if travel is necessary. Nearly 90 flood watches and advisories are in effect across the state, including urgent flash flood warnings in portions of Los Angeles, Tulare, Fresno, and San Luis Obispo counties. Evacuation warnings are in effect for dozens of communities as reports of rapidly rising rivers, streams, and creeks continue.
In San Luis Obispo, people are sandbagging the doors of low-lying businesses along San Luis Obispo Creek, where the churning brown water is rising. The California Department of Transportation has warned that as little as 1 foot of water can sweep a car off the road.
Officials Work to Prevent Repeat of Deadly Flooding in California
In Santa Cruz County, the San Lorenzo River has already crested, prompting evacuation orders for Felton Grove, Paradise Park, and Soquel Village due to flooding. San Mateo County saw a massive tree fall onto a car in Redwood City, but both passengers are expected to recover. Flash flood warnings were in effect in San Luis Obispo County, where isolated rainfall totals of up to 15 inches were possible and stream near Cambria and San Simeon were already reaching concerning levels.
The storm follows a series of nine back-to-back atmospheric rivers in January that sent water rushing over levees and onto properties and roadways, contributing to nearly two dozen deaths. Officials are hoping to prevent a repeat of that deadly scenario and are working to prevent overtopping by making strategic releases from reservoirs.