Storm-battered California got more wind, rain and snow Saturday, raising flooding concerns, causing power outages and making travel dangerous.
Bands of rain with gusty winds started in Northern California and spread south, with more storms expected to follow into early next week, the National Weather Service said.
More than 68,000 utility customers were without electricity Saturday morning, a number that was cut by more than half during the afternoon, according to poweroutage.us.
Flood warnings were issued for the region north of San Francisco Bay, including Marin, Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties.
To the south, warnings were posted for parts of counties including San Mateo and Santa Cruz, where the tiny community of Felton Grove along the San Lorenzo River was ordered evacuated.
The swollen Salinas River swamped farmland in Monterey County, and to the east, flood warnings were in effect for Merced County in the agricultural Central Valley, where Gov. Gavin Newsom visited to take stock of storm problems.
“The reality is that this is just the eighth of what we anticipate will be nine atmospheric rivers — we’re not done,” Newsom said at a briefing with local leaders where he urged people to be vigilant about safety for the next 24-48 hours.
“This is happening all across California, but I want to say … you guys are disproportionately taking the brunt of it, and if you feel that way you’re right,” Newsom said.
Slick roads, snow and whiteout conditions plagued highways through the Sierra Nevada.
The UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab tweeted Saturday morning that it received 54 centimeters of snow in 24 hours and that its snowpack of about 3 meters was expected to grow by about a meter by Monday.
A backcountry avalanche warning was issued for the central Sierra, including the greater Lake Tahoe area.
A series of atmospheric rivers has dumped rain and snow on California since late December, cutting power to thousands, swamping roads, unleashing debris flows, and triggering landslides.
At least 19 storm-related deaths have occurred, and a 5-year-old boy remained missing after being swept out of his mother’s car by floodwaters in San Luis Obispo County.
Half of the deaths have involved motorists, and some could have been prevented if drivers had heeded road closure signs, said Sean Duryee, acting commissioner of the California Highway Patrol, during a briefing by state and federal officials Friday.
In Santa Barbara County, where a massive debris flow through the community of Montecito killed 23 people Jan. 9, 2018, residents were told that new evacuations were not expected but that they should be prepared.
Montecito and adjacent areas were most recently ordered evacuated last Monday, the fifth anniversary of what is locally remembered as the “1/9 Debris Flow.” But the community perched on foothills of coastal mountains escaped serious harm.
In a visit to Montecito Friday, Newsom asked residents to exercise caution and to heed warnings from public safety officials.
“I know how fatigued you all are,” Newsom said. “Just maintain a little more vigilance over the course of the next weekend.”
California isn’t the only western U.S. state to feel winter’s fury.
Major storms are expected to hit the U.S. Southwest over the holiday weekend, dumping heavy snow in the highest elevations and rain in the deserts, along with wind that could knock out power and topple trees, weather forecasters said.
The National Weather Service said Flagstaff and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona could get up to 61 centimeters of snow in two rounds of storms. Much higher amounts were expected in parts of northern Nevada. Mountainous areas west of Las Vegas and north-central New Mexico also will see heavy snow.
The first storm is forecast to hit Saturday night into Sunday, with a lull before the next one Monday on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
Entrance fees at the Grand Canyon and other national parks are waived for Monday, but park officials say visitors might not be able to see into the depths of the canyon because of the storms. Trails will be snow-packed and icy.
Some ski resorts in the region, including one outside of Las Vegas, are requiring visitors to use chains or snow tires to get there.
The storm will be felt across much of the region, though some places will see only a dusting of snow. Strong winds are expected to accompany the storms, sending snow swirling and limiting visibility.
Rain is expected in the lower elevations.