Historic levels of rainfall in California are bringing about flooding, mudslides, and power outages, with at least three people killed by falling trees.
The Weather Prediction Centre (WPC) has issued a rare level 4 warning to affected areas including Downtown Los Angeles, Anaheim, and Long Beach. Issued for fewer than 4% of days per year, level 4 warnings are responsible for 83% of all flood-related damage and 39% of all flood-related deaths.
Rainfall rates across the high-risk areas of California have the potential to reach one inch per hour, which could lead to rainfall totals of four to eight inches, rising to eight to 14 inches in mountain and foothill terrains.
Scientists have observed that the destructive ‘atmospheric river’ storm has been accelerated by two factors: the climate crisis and El Niño.
The storm has already had significant impact on California’s travel and power. The Pacific Coast Highway closed in two locations on Monday, as thousands of flights to and from the state ended up cancelled or delayed. At the same time, more than 200,000 California power customers are facing outages.
On 4 February, California's Governor Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency for eight counties including Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura. Residents in Santa Barbara, San José, Los Angeles, and Ventura County are under evacuation orders issued over the weekend as officials warned of potentially life-threatening floods and landslides.