Northern California storm brings thunder, wind, heavy rain
The latest in a series of intense winter storms will continue to lash Northern California on Tuesday, bringing periods of thunderstorms, heavy rain, wind and hail to the already waterlogged region as the death toll from the extreme weather climbs.
As of early Tuesday, the back-to-back storms across the state have killed at least 16 people.
Two motorists were killed Tuesday morning in a crash on Highway 99 in Tulare County that was caused by a tree that fell into the roadway, according to California Highway Patrol Spokesperson Steve Beal.
Lightning struck the tree, causing it to fall onto the northbound lanes. Multiple vehicles were involved in the collision, including a motorcycle, Beal said.
“These floods are deadly and have now turned to be more deadly than even the wildfires here in the state of California,” Newsom said during a news conference over the weekend.
Sheriff’s officials in Merced County went door-to-door evacuating residents around Bear Creek after pouring rains caused the waterway to flood early Tuesday. The creek’s flood stage is 23 feet, but it had reached 26 feet, sending water onto streets.
About 189,000 Pacific Gas & Electric Co. customers remain without power Tuesday. Efforts to restore power overnight were stymied by wind gusts exceeding 70 mph in some areas and more than 100 lightning strikes, according to the utility.
The Felton area of Santa Cruz County, portions of which were flooded Monday from the rising San Lorenzo River, sustained major damage overnight from powerful winds gusting up to 70 mph that toppled trees. Highway 17 was closed after power lines went down and were sparking on the roadway, according to the National Weather Service.
Forecasters are keeping close watch on the Salinas and Big Sur rivers in Monterey County, which are in flood stage but are expected to recede through the day.
While forecasters say the brunt of the storm, which began late Sunday, has passed through the northern half of the state, wet weather and periods of intense showers will occur across the region, with some thunderstorms.
“If a strong thunderstorm does develop over an area, people need to realize that it could produce really gusty winds as well as dump heavy rainfall,” said Brooke Bingaman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in the San Francisco Bay Area. “So what that means is, while that thunderstorm is there, more trees could go down and there could be quick water rises if you’re near a creek or stream.”
In the Sacramento area, forecasters observed rotation on radar indicating favorable conditions for tornado formation and issued a tornado warning, though no twisters actually materialized, said Cory Mueller, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento.
The strong winds wreaked havoc in the area, knocking over a semi truck and leaving it dangling on an overpass and toppling trees across El Dorado, Amador and Sacramento counties.
Nearly all of California has seen rainfall totals ranging from 400% to 600% of above average over the past several weeks.
“This has resulted in nearly saturated soils and increasingly high river levels,” the weather service said Tuesday, adding that heavy rain through the day will “further exacerbate ongoing flooding while prolonging the risk of flash flooding and mudslides especially across recent burn scar regions.”
More rain is on the horizon with another atmospheric river — the sixth to hit the state since late December — forecast to move into Northern California on Wednesday and precipitation continuing through the weekend.