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Severe storms pummel California via atmospheric river

Severe storms pounded California late Saturday into Sunday, prompting heavy rainfall, mudslides, dangerous winds and evacuation orders in several central and southern parts of the state.

The storms marked the second time in a matter of days California has been pummeled by an atmospheric river, a band of moisture that transports water vapor from the tropics and dumps it as rain or snow when it makes landfall. Heavy atmospheric rivers can lead to extreme rainfall and flooding.

The National Weather Service (NWS) on Sunday said the atmospheric river event will continue to produce “heavy rain, strong wind, high surf and heavy snows” across a large portion of Central and Southern California over the next few days.

The heavy rainfall is forecasted to cause widespread flash flooding, with evacuation warnings and orders already in effect for Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Ventura and Monterey counties, The Associated Press (AP) reported.

“This storm is predicted to be one of the largest and most significant in our county’s history and our goal is to get through it without any fatalities or any serious injuries,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown told reporters Saturday, per the news wire.

The storm is called a “Pineapple Express,” as the river’s plume of moisture stretches across the Pacific to near Hawaii and touched down in Northern California on Saturday, the AP reported.

The NWS Bay Area overnight into Sunday issued a “hurricane force wind warning” for the Central Coast, forecasting wind gusts up to 92 miles per hour near Central California’s coastal waters and bays. Swimmers and surfers were warned of dangerous conditions and unexpected waves.

The storms are expected to move into Los Angeles and Orange counties on Monday, where a “High Risk of Excessive Rainfall” is in effect, the NWS said in its Sunday discussion. Forecasters are expecting 1 to 3 inches of rain in these areas, with up to 3 inches of snow expected in the Sierra Nevada.

This snow is expected to “wane” across northern and central Sierra and continue in the southern parts of the mountain range, NWS noted.

The San Francisco Bay Area was hit by heavy downpours and snowfall last Wednesday from another atmospheric river, which eventually moved south toward Los Angeles and San Diego by last Thursday.

Heavy rainfall is expected to remain in Southern California until Tuesday, and the NWS predicted a total of up to 6 inches of rainfall across Southern California’s coastal and valley areas and up to 12 inches in the foothills and mountains, per the AP.

An estimated 201,223 customers were left without power in the Golden State, according to poweroutage.us as of Sunday afternoon.

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