A “brutal” storm system building over the Pacific Ocean was poised to slam across Northern California on Wednesday, battering a region already struggling from a weekend of record rains and flooding.
The National Weather Service in San Francisco warned in a statement that the impact from the heavy rains would be widespread through Friday and could lead to deaths.
“The impacts will include widespread flooding, roads washing out, hillside collapsing, trees down (potentially full groves), widespread power outages, immediate disruption to commerce, and the worst of all, likely loss of human life,” the statement said. “This is truly a brutal system that we are looking at and needs to be taken seriously.”
A weather phenomenon known as an “atmospheric river” that swept across much of the state dumped more than 5 inches of rain on San Francisco over the weekend and was bringing havoc to the Midwest on Tuesday. Atmospheric rivers are long, flowing regions of the atmosphere that carry water vapor across a swath of sky 250 to 375 miles wide – and can be more than 1,000 miles long.
WHAT IS AN ‘ATMOSPHERIC RIVER’? These rivers of water vapor can extend thousands of miles
►Winter Storm Warnings and Winter Weather Advisories are in effect for much of Wyoming, Colorado, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, and for portions of northern Michigan and the higher elevations of Arizona and New Mexico.
►Ice Storm Warnings are in effect for portions of central and eastern Nebraska through northwestern Iowa and southern Minnesota.
►High Wind Warnings are in effect for portions of southeastern New Mexico and west Texas.
8 MORE INCHES OF RAIN? Storm-battered California faces another round of severe weather; tornadoes possible in South
Flash flooding was prompting water rescues and school closures in parts of Kentucky, and severe thunderstorm warnings were posted for much of the state. In Muhlenberg County, near the Tennessee border, the Greenville Fire Department said it had responded to numerous stranded motorists and provided water rescues from residences. Numerous roadways were flooded, and first responders and road crews were blocking flooded roadways. County schools were closed Tuesday due to flooding.
Forecasters issued severe thunderstorm warnings across much of Mississippi. In Alabama, forecasters warned of severe storms and possible tornadoes Tuesday and Wednesday. The weather service said moisture from the Western Gulf of Mexico surging northward over the Lower Mississippi Valley and much of the Southeast was fueling the foul weather.
In California’s Sacramento County, crews rushed to repair a 200-foot section of a levee system along the Cosumnes River that protects more than 53 square miles of vineyards and cattle ranches. Flooding caused by rainfall and the swelling Mokelumne and Cosumnes rivers may rapidly inundate some areas, the National Weather Service warned.
Saturday’s storm prompted county officials to order the evacuation of the Point Pleasant Community – including 1,075 inmates and staff at the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center. Inmates were taken to nearby jails with no timetable for their return, according to County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Amar Gandhi.
Across much of the Midwest, very heavy snow, significant freezing rain, and some sleet was expected Tuesday and Wednesday. Intense snow rates of 1-3 inches per hour, in some instances accompanied by thunder, were forecast for parts of Nebraska, South Dakota and Minnesota.
Gusty, 30 mph winds will produce areas of blowing and drifting snow throughout the day Tuesday. The precipitation will result in snow-covered roads, reduced visibility, and “difficult-to-impossible travel,” the National Weather Service warned.
The young season’s snowfall totals are already well above average across much of the nation’s Plains and Upper Midwest. Minneapolis has received 32.6 inches of snow since Nov. 1, 2022, compared to the average of 18 inches, AccuWeather reports. Rapid City and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Fargo, North Dakota, have also seen snow amounts 150-160% of normal since Nov. 1.
Contributing: The Associated Press