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Storms throughout the state of California have caused damage and fear for many throughout the state over the last two weeks. These heavy storms, brought in by a weather phenomenon called an atmospheric river, have led to some of the highest winds and rainfall in years. Read on below for everything you need to know about the recent California storm and its impacts on Californians.
What was the big storm?
The major storm that hit California was caused by a natural phenomenon known as an atmospheric river. Atmospheric rivers are made up of long bands of highly concentrated evaporated water. This means that water vapor can be transported over long distances, even thousands of miles at times. When atmospheric rivers cross over land, they can cause heavy rainfall and strong wind.
The end of 2022 into the start of 2023 have seen rough weather for all of California so far, and this is already the third time the state has been hit by an atmospheric river. Atmospheric rivers are a common weather occurrence on the Pacific coast and actually account for a good portion of the region’s rainfall.
Where in the state was impacted?
Coastal cities in California are the most affected by big storms like these, especially metropolitan areas with large buildings that can become destabilized. The areas of the state affected the most by the recent storms are San Francisco, Los Angeles, and the highest-altitude regions of the Sierra Nevada.
Heavy storms have caused power outages all over California, which have left over 128,000 people completely without power. Most of the outages have been experienced by Pacific Gas & Electric Company customers, and many of the company’s workers have been mobilized to begin repairing infrastructure and getting power turned back on.
Winds from these storms have been severe as well, and winds as high as 85 miles per hour have been recorded. These heavy winds have caused damage all over the state, especially in highly populated cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Several deaths have already been caused by this storm, particularly because of damage from strong winds. A young child was killed last week after winds knocked a redwood tree onto a Sonoma county home.
Rain and snow
Rain has hit the entire state of California hard and has caused severe flooding through many areas of the state. As of January 9, more than 34 million California citizens were under a flood watch. Over 90% of the state was included in the flood warnings, and heavy rain led to one to 1.5 inches of water per hour in some areas. San Francisco was even reported to have its highest 10-day period in terms of water since 1871.
The state has experienced unusual amounts of snowfall, and certain higher-elevation parts of the state reported up to two feet of snow last weekend. Average snow levels across the entire state are approximately 184% higher than normal.