Monday, February 20, 2017

Today's California Storm Might Be The Most Dangerous Of All Of Them

Flooding in  Maxwell, California over the weekend.
The situation is likely to get worse in
northern California today. 
It seems I've been writing a lot about California rain, storms and flooding this winter, and here I go again.

I can't help it. The storms out there have been way too newsworthy to ignore.

The latest storm is sweeping into the northern half of California today, and this one could well end up being the most cataclysmic of the bunch.

Here's why:

First of all, today's storm is probably the strongest one of the winter. It has the strength of a storm that happens, on average just once every five to ten years. That means up to 10 inches of rain in some hilly sections of California, and several inches in many areas, including around Sacramento and the Bay Area.

Secondly, as we well know, it has already rained a LOT in California this winter. Talk about weather whiplash! From one of the state's worst droughts ever as of last autumn to a winter of flood emergencies.

The northern Sierra Nevada mountains are on a pace that could make this the wettest winter on record.   

The ground is saturated, flooding was ongoing before the storm even hit. This could get bad.

I noticed the wording in the flood warning issued by the National Weather Service office in Sacramento is particularly strong.

The warning covers most of northern California and states: "We may see flooding in locations which haven't been impacted in many years. We are strongly advising all residents in interior Northern California to be prepared for flooding...,..Gather a 'go bag' with important items like medication and hard to replace documents. Do not forget to plan for your pets and animals."

One strange irony of this potential flood emergency is it could make drinking water in shorter supply than the drought did. If too many levees fail in the Sacramento River delta area, water supplies could be seriously disrupted.

In a worst case scenario, there would be massive flooding in Sacramento, and thousands of people would have to flee in a moment's notice. Which would not end well, believe me.

That cataclysmic scenario is very unlikely, but within the realm of possibility

Landslides and mudslides, already a huge problem across California, will get worse today.  I'm sure a lot of roads will be blocked and lots of residents will be stranded. People were advised to stock up on food and supplies in case roads shut down.

The Oroville Dam, whose damaged spillways threatened a flood and forced the evacuation of some 180,000 people, is relatively stable as workers have managed to sharply lower the levels of the reservoir behind the dam.

So far, so good there, but it will be interesting to see how much the reservoir rises again with this new storm. Officials warn other dams in California are alreadys stressed by recent heavy rains and this won't help.

The Don Pedro Dam in the San Joaquin Valley is near capacity and an emergency spillway might have to be opened. If that happens, parts of Modesto could flood, reports KQED.

On top of the flooding rains, high winds will roar through northern California. Trees will easily topple in these winds, especially since the soil is so wet that the trees can be easily uprooted.

This latest storm will largely avoid Southern California, which is good since they're still reeling from Friday's drenching.  At least six people died in the southern California storm over the weekend.

That storm moved on to Texas by this morning, creating a possible tornado around San Antonio late last night that damaged at least 100 homes and caused some injuries, the Weather Channel reports.

The Houston area is getting heavy rain and storms this morning.

The system hitting northern California today will eventually make it out into the middle of the country, and could cause severe storms, heavy rain in some areas, and possibly a blizzard in the northern Plains.

It's too soon to know exactly how that will play out. Stay tuned, as I always say.

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