Hundreds of thousands of California homes were without power early Sunday after torrential rains and strong winds battered the northern part of the state, as forecasters warned of a “relentless parade of cyclones” in the coming days.
“Round after round of heavy rainfall in saturated soils will produce considerable flood potential with rapid river rises, mudslides, and flash flooding with burn scars or debris flows,” the National Weather Service said in a bulletin, adding that “gusty winds can down trees and power lines.”
More than 540,000 homes and businesses were already without power in California as of 1 a.m. local time (4 a.m. ET) Sunday morning, according to data from PowerOutage.us.
The west coast “remains under the target of a relentless parade of cyclones,” which will intensify over the Pacific Ocean as it moves inland, the NWS said.
“With the ground already saturated from previous rains, additional bursts of heavy rain will lead to an increased threat of flash flooding and rapidly rising river levels,” it added.
The first of the strongest storms was due to hit Monday, and the agency issued a flood watch for a large swath of northern and central California with 6 to 12 inches of rain expected through Wednesday in the Sacramento-area foothills.
State climatologist Michael Anderson said at a news conference Saturday night that officials were closely monitoring Monday’s looming storm and another behind it and were keeping an eye on three other systems farther out in the Pacific, according to the Associated Press. .
The NWS’s Sacramento office tweeted early Sunday that parts of the Sacramento Valley were experiencing “high winds gusting up to 60 mph” as well as “numerous trees and power lines down with power outages.”
At least six people have died due to severe weather since New Year’s weekend, including a young child killed by a fallen redwood tree that crushed a mobile home in Northern California.
Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency Wednesday as rain and snow engulfed California, causing flooding across the state. The measure was designed to help local jurisdictions and state agencies respond quickly to changing weather as high winds bring down power lines and infrastructure creating hazardous conditions.
The San Francisco Fire Department tweeted images of downed trees and flooded buildings on Saturday, but said there was no danger to life. On Friday, San Francisco Public Works announced it was able to supply ten bags of sand per home and business in preparation for the wet weather over the weekend.
California’s soil has long been weakened by drought and summer wildfires, which cause trees to become brittle or burn. This reduces the amount of interference from rain, which quickly forms streams in parched ground and leads to increased risk of flooding.
Climate change has already doubled the likelihood of extreme precipitation in California, and extreme weather is projected to generate 200-400% of surface runoff (rainwater that cannot be absorbed by the ground) by the end of the century According to research conducted by the University of California at Los Angeles Environment and Sustainability Department.
In the rest of the US, showers and thunderstorms will move into the Deep South on Sunday morning.
Cold rain moving across the Midwest will reach the central Appalachians Sunday night and Monday morning.
Reuters Y Associated Press contributed.