Rain and snow pounding California with yet more bad weather on its way


LOS ANGELES — Rain and snow pounded huge swaths of California on Friday, forcing highway closures across the state and one major dam to open its spillway for the first time in nearly four years.

President Joe Biden approved a state of emergency request from Gov. Gavin Newsom, triggering federal assistance to state, “tribal, and local response efforts” caused by ongoing, “severe winter storms, flooding, landslides and mudslides,” California’s Office of Emergency Services said.

Residents of the Central Coast, between Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties and the southern San Joaquin Valley are under particularly high threats of flooding, National Weather Service meteorologist David Lawrence said.

Even after flood concerns taper off Friday night, more bad weather is in store for the weekend and the coming days.

“We will see additional rounds of both rain and heavy mountain snow redevelop across much of Northern and Central California as we go through the weekend,” Lawrence told reporters at OES headquarters in the Sacramento suburb of Mather. “And we’re also likely to see this weather pattern continuing as we go into at least the first half of next week.”

Weeks of relentless snowfall has kept the state’s transportation agency busy clearing roads of 45 million cubic yards of snow in the past month, enough to “fill more than 100 Rose Bowls,” said California Department of Transportation Chief Deputy Director Mike Keever.

Recent storms prompted the state to release water from the main spillway at Lake Oroville midday Friday, with snowmelt likely to further swell lake levels in the coming months.

It’s just the second time water has been released from the rebuilt spillway, following the 2017 disaster that upended life around Gold Country and forced the evacuation of more than 180,000 people.

People walk down a path at the Golden Gate Overlook in San Francisco, on Thursday.Jeff Chiu / AP

Some of the most famous and well-traveled roads in California were shut down at times on Friday becuase of flooding.

  • Southbound U.S. Highway 101 near the state’s garlic hub of Gilroy could not be used.
  • State Route 1, the pathway for tourists to reach Hearst Castle in San San Simeon, was also washed out Friday.
  • Interstate 580, a major highway through the East Bay of San Francisco, finally reopened by mid-day.
  • High winds blew down trees that crashed into a car just outside Redwood City, about 40 miles south of San Francisco, the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office said Friday morning.

State authorities warned California residents that any amount of moving water can be dangerous.

As little as 6 inches of moving water can easily knock a person off their feet, while a foot of water has the force to sweep a car away, the San Luis Obispo Office of Emergency Services warned residents of the Central Coast Friday.

“Remember, do not walk, swim or drive through flood waters and avoid non-essential travel today,” the agency said.

Transportation department officials urged state residents to check their weather before stepping outside.

The department cautioned drivers to be “prepared for delays and carry extra food, water, blankets and other essentials, and pack cellphone chargers.”

At least 10 rivers are expected to exceed their flood stages, according to the California Nevada River Forecast Center as of early Friday.

Heavy rain and high snow levels are likely across parts of the state, with warm air associated with the storm expected to see rain falling on existing snowpacks up to 8,500 feet, the weather service said.

Challenging weather conditions are also set to bring heavy snow to parts of the northern Plains on Friday, as well as over parts of the upper Mississippi Valley on Saturday.

Rains are also expected to develop over parts of the middle Mississippi Valley, with snowfall expected to make its way to the Great Lakes by Sunday.

A storm system on Friday dumped snow and rain across the Great Lakes, Northeast and Southeast with totals including 12 inches in Mequon, Wisconsin, 10 inches in Milwaukee, 9 inches in Woodstock, Illinois, and 4 inches around Detroit.

Rain and snow showers will continue to move from the eastern Great Lakes through the Mid-Atlantic region.

Western New York and northeast Pennsylvania could get between 4 inches and 8 inches of snow.


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