Another ‘Atmospheric River’ Is Headed Toward California—Here’s What To Expect


An ‘atmospheric river’—a storm known for heavy rainfall and strong winds—will make landfall across northern and central California Thursday and linger in the area through the weekend, once again pummeling areas of the state with large amounts of precipitation, after a season of multiple atmospheric rivers and winter storms reversed some of California’s droughts.

Key Facts

With heavy rainfall moving across California Thursday, National Weather Service (NWS) forecasters have issued flood watches for areas including Sacramento, and wind advisories for much of the northern and central parts of the state including San Francisco.

NWS forecasters warn that when the warmer weather system moving through California meets areas of the state that have had record snow this season, the snowmelt will increase the risk of flooding, especially in areas with elevation below 5,000 feet.

A winter storm warning is also in effect until Friday in the Sierra Nevadas, where NWS forecasters warn 10 inches to two feet of a “more dense” snow is possible.

Some county officials, like those in Monterey County, are warning residents to prepare for the storm with a two week supply of essential items and offering sandbags to residents in flood-prone areas.

Key Background

California has been repeatedly hit with strong rain and snowstorms this winter season, bringing widespread power outages. Last week, a massive winter storm that brought feet of snow to California forced Gov. Gavin Newson to declare a state of emergency in 13 counties, including Los Angeles County. San Bernardino County took a particularly hard hit during repeated storms that began February 23, leaving many residents trapped beneath feet of snow. Mara Rodriguez, a spokesperson for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, told the Los Angeles Times 12 people have died since those storms started in late February. In January, more than 34 million Californians, or 90% of the state’s population, were under a flood watch, according to CBS News, after pouring rain and gusty winds causing flood, mudslides and widespread power outages. Those January atmospheric river storms caused widespread flooding and contributed to nearly two dozen deaths, the Times reported. The heavy rain and snow pulled large swaths of the state out of drought conditions, though much of California remains abnormally dry.

Surprising Fact

This is the fifth snowiest year on record in the Sierra Nevadas, according to the University of California Berkeley’s Central Sierra Snow Lab. As of Wednesday, the snow lab has recorded 603 inches of snow since Oct. 1.

Further Reading

16 Million Californians Under Flood Watch As Yet Another ‘Atmospheric River’ Looms (Forbes)

Parts Of California Out Of Drought—But Experts Still Warn Drought Conditions Will Remain (Forbes)