Hit by a “cyclone bomb”, California is preparing for the worst

California alert. Violent winds and torrential rains that can cause heavy flooding have been hitting several regions of this huge western American state since Wednesday, January 4, where the soil is already saturated with water due to recent storms.

Northern California, especially around San Francisco and Sacramento, is the area most at risk. Authorities issued multiple alerts and warned that this storm was capable of killing people. According to the US Weather Service (NWS), winds likely to reach 110 km / h are expected. Very intense rains are also expected to hit the region, with up to 10 centimeters of precipitation forecast in San Francisco Bay and 1.2 meters of snowfall on the Sierra Nevada mountains. The deluge is expected to continue Thursday.

The region must prepare for “Major flooding, submerged roads, landslides, falling trees, large power cuts, immediate disruption of trade and worst of all, probable loss of life”according to the NWS.

“Avoid taking the road”

California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency on Wednesday morning to facilitate the emergency response and streamline the reaction of the authorities in the event of an incident. The city of San Francisco has set up an emergency operations center.

“If you have no obligations to be outside in San Francisco, avoid taking the road”warned Rachel Gordon, an official with the city’s public works department.

Dozens of flights were canceled at San Francisco International Airport and several schools in the city preemptively canceled classes on Thursday. Bars and restaurants were closed on Wednesday and some residents were asked to work from home. City firefighters reported several falling trees Wednesday morning and some minor flooding, before the heart of the storm arrived. Thousands of sandbags have been distributed to residents of areas at risk of flooding.

“We are very worried”San Francisco resident Deepak Srivastava told CBS. “I spent the day piling sandbags in front of all the entrances to the garage, and we’re crossing our fingers that we don’t have more damage. »

“We had a similar flood in October”sighed his wife Denise Srivastava. “They call it the storm of the century, but it looks like we’re going to have two of these in a week. »

A series of storms that will continue

Northern California is indeed still suffering from the consequences of a series of storms. The latest swept through on New Year’s Eve and caused landslides and power cuts. At least one person has died after being trapped in their car by flooding, authorities said.

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On December 31, San Francisco recorded the second rainiest day in its history since the measurement was launched, with 14 centimeters of precipitation. Under these conditions, the soils of the region, drained by the drought that has hit the American West for two decades, will have difficulty absorbing a new deluge, which increases the risk of flash floods.

“This storm alone could cause localized flooding and landslides”sums up meteorologist Matt Solum for Agence France-Presse. “But with the recent wet conditions (…), any additional rain will run down instead of being absorbed by the ground. »

The rain expected on Wednesday comes from a “atmospheric river”, a narrow band in the atmosphere, similar to a river, which carries huge amounts of moisture from the tropics. Far from being exceptional in winter, this current phenomenon is accompanied by a “cyclone bomb”a system capable of dropping the pressure suddenly, thus generating very violent winds.

According to meteorologists, the series of storms currently battering California is not about to stop. “We are expecting another over the weekend”annonce M. Solum “And then potentially multiple storms for next week. And possibly the following week too. »

Le Monde with AP and AFP

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