Update, Feb. 16: The winter storm warning has been extended through early Sunday morning.
Northern California is getting pelted by one of the strongest storm systems of the winter so far, prompting a flood warning for the Sacramento area through 8 p.m. Wednesday.
A Flood Warning has been issued for portions of #NorCal through 8pm. Heavy rain will continue through the evening which could cause localized flooding. Slow down while driving, and never drive through flooded streets. #CAwx pic.twitter.com/8Km7WNYNRU— NWS Sacramento (@NWSSacramento) February 13, 2019
"We are expecting maybe somewhere between 2 to 3 inches in the Sacramento area through the early weekend," said Emily Heller, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento. "We are expecting urban flooding and some ponding on roads and there could be some moderate rises on small streams and creeks."
Moderate to heavy precipitation has spread across interior #NorCal to the north of Sacramento early this morning. Precipitation continues to fall as snow in the Sacramento Valley to the north of Red Bluff. #CAwx pic.twitter.com/IVUwcL2WeL— NWS Sacramento (@NWSSacramento) February 13, 2019
A flood warning means flooding is active or imminent, and people living in areas prone to flooding should be prepared to take action.
Heller said the watch was prompted by a combination of the rain in the valley and melting snow in the foothills. NWS reported snowfall in Redding and areas north of Red Bluff, but expected that to turn to rain early Wednesday morning.
"This is one of the most wet systems we've seen this winter," Heller said. "Snow levels are going to rise today so we will some snow in the foothills kind of melting."
Wet snow continues to fall in areas north of Red Bluff this morning at 3:45am. Snow will transition back to rain later this morning as temperatures rise with rain forecast to continue throughout the day. pic.twitter.com/I1R2cm7g20— NWS Sacramento (@NWSSacramento) February 13, 2019
The city of Sacramento is advising residents to prepare for longer commutes Wednesday morning and to call 311 to report any flooding, downed trees or non-working traffic lights.
“While this storm brings much-needed rain to our region, it can also be harmful. Please be smart and stay safe,” city Director of Emergency Management. Daniel Bowers said in a statement.
As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, Caltrans had multiple reports of flooding on highways and local streets throughout the region.
Northbound I-5 on-ramp from N. Maxwell Rd in Colusa County closed due to flooding. No ETO.— Caltrans District 3 (@CaltransDist3) February 14, 2019
In Butte County, an evacuation warning was issued about 4:35 p.m. for the community of Richvale because of potential flooding.
A wind advisory is also in effect Wednesday for gusts has high as 45 mph. A winter storm warning remains in effect in the South Lake Tahoe area through Thursday night.
The storm is an atmospheric river, and it's the first to hit California since a new severity scale was put into place earlier this month.
The Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes in La Jolla created the severity levels, with one being weak and five being exceptionally strong.
In Wednesday's case, the system is ranked as a "Category Four" to the north and a "Three" in the south.
The center's Operations Manager Julie Kalansky said a storm's water content and duration are considered, but so are situations on the ground, like recent burn scars.
"If one atmospheric river is coming right after another and the soil is already saturated that's another component,” she said. “So, there's these other situational components that could impact how hazardous, potentially, an atmospheric river is.”
Kalansky said the scale is not widely used yet, but that will change.
"It will be an evolution in how the scale is used and communicated as forecasters and the general public become more familiar with it," she said.
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