Dramatic video shows ‘Pineapple Express’ barreling into snow-hit California

‘Areas that normally do not experience flash flooding will flood,’ forecasters warned

Louise Boyle
Senior Climate Correspondent, New York
Friday 10 March 2023 19:05 GMT
New atmospheric river storm pushes into California

A massive storm is tipping excessive amounts of rain onto California, bringing risk of widespread flash flooding and rapid runoff including in areas still buried under heavy snow.

President Joe Biden has approved a state of emergency and ordered federal assistance to support California during the severe conditions which aso threatening landslides and mudslides.

“California is deploying every tool we have to protect communities from the relentless and deadly storms battering our state,” said Governor Gavin Newsom. “In these dangerous and challenging conditions, it is crucial that Californians remain vigilant and follow all guidance from local emergency responders.”

The latest atmospheric river, dubbed a “Pineapple Express” as it drags subtropical moisture from over the Pacific, is likely to significantly impact northern and central parts of the state.

At higher elevations in northern California and the Sierra Nevada, there will be heavy, wet snow, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

The snowpack is so massive at the highest elevations that it should be able absorb the rain, NWS said. Mountain communities in California have seen as much as ten feet of snow from rare blizzard conditions which struck late last month.

However, elevations below 4,000 feet will see melting and runoff, NWS reported. Considerable flooding impacts are possible across portions of the central coast and San Joaquin Valley caused by the rain and snowmelt.

Creeks and streams in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada will be most vulnerable to flooding from rain and snowmelt.

Travel will be difficult, and there will likely be further impacts from the depth and weight of snow which has already trapped residents in their homes, downed powerlines and led to roof collapses.

“We have another large storm coming our way. We are requesting that you, DON’T DRIVE UNLESS YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST! If you can postpone your travel during this storm please do so. If you must travel be sure to slow down, avoid sudden movements, and use the brakes carefully,” San Luis Obispo county’s highway patrol tweeted on Thursday.

Severe and widespread flash flooding is expected from the storm over the next 24 hours. “Areas that normally do not experience flash flooding will flood,” NWS warned. “Lives and property are in great danger from Friday into Saturday morning.”

The precipitation is expected to ease off later on Saturday.

This article is being updated

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