Updated Jan. 8, 10:05 p.m.
This story is no longer being updated. Find the latest updates here.
By CapRadio Staff
Another atmospheric river arrived in the Sacramento Valley and much of Northern California on Wednesday while the region is still recovering from a strong winter storm that struck New Year's Eve.
CapRadio will be providing updates on the storms here. We also have resources available to help you through the storms:
Sunday, Jan. 8
9:55 p.m.: Sacramento City, Stockton Unified school districts to close Monday
The Sacramento City Unified and Stockton Unified school districts announced that they would be closed Monday due to expected power outages and flood risks from forecasted storms overnight.
SCUSD called parents around 9:45 p.m. Sunday, saying that classes would be canceled at all sites. At least six schools would be without power Monday.
"We have been in close contact with SMUD throughout the day and do not have a timeline for the full restoration of power," district officials wrote in an email update. "That fact, combined with the expected strong winds and heavy rain overnight, make it necessary to close all campuses for the day for the safety of our students and staff."
Stockton Unified said that power remains out at its district building, which could impact emergency response and student safety.
8:20 p.m.: Around 50,000 SMUD customers remain without power
A SMUD crew repairs a fallen power line in Arden-Arcade, Calif., Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023Andrew Nixon / CapRadio
Early Sunday morning more than 350,000 SMUD customers were without power after 60-70 mph winds hit the Sacramento Valley. As the region preps for a fifth atmospheric river in three weeks Sunday night, that number is down to around 50,000.
Still, with more extreme wind forecast overnight, the utility is warning some of those without power that the outages could stretch into Monday.
"Due to extensive damage, many customers will experience lengthy outages that last overnight, and many will last well into the coming week," the utility wrote in a press release Sunday. "SMUD is contacting customers we expect to be out of power overnight directly so they can make arrangements."
SMUD officials called this weekend the "worst storm in more than 30 years", with more than 80 downed power poles and dozens of trees impacting equipment.
6:45 p.m.: Wilton area residents ordered to evacuate in anticipation of floods
On Sunday evening, Sacramento County’s Office of Emergency Services ordered residents in the Wilton area to evacuate immediately.
“Flooding is imminent. Out of an abundance of caution, residents must leave now before roads become impassable,” reads a statement from the county.
During New Year’s weekend, residents attempting to leave the Wilton community encountered fast-rising water, prompting several rescue operations. At least three people died in the area due to flash flooding.
The county released boundaries for evacuation:
- Northbound boundary: Jackson Road and Highway 16
- Eastbound: Grant Line Road, south to Bond Road, south to Highway 99
- Southbound: Arno Road, west to Alta Mesa Road, south to Twin Cities Road, west to Clay Station Road
- Westbound: Clay Station Road, north about 4 miles, then northwest to Jackson Road and Highway 16
An evacuation center is open at the Sacramento Asian Sports Foundation (9040 High Tech Court in Elk Grove), and the county is asking evacuees with pets or livestock to call 2-1-1 to determine where to take them.
4:27 p.m.: Governor Gavin Newsom says ‘the worst’ of the storms is ‘in front of us’
California officials convened on Sunday afternoon to urge caution as additional storms loom on the horizon.
“We expect to see the worst of it in front of us,” Governor Gavin Newsom said of the forecasted storms this week.
Beginning Sunday night, a fifth atmospheric river is scheduled to slam into California, bringing stronger rains and equally powerful winds as this weekend’s extreme weather.
This latest storm, which will hit communities in Northern and Central California, will pose “a challenging time” for residents and first responders, Newsom said.
California officials described a state that is already soaked, with soil-saturation levels very high, waterways filled and, according to the state’s Office of Emergency Services director, more than 424,143 California customers still without electricity.
Two trees strike two houses next door to each other in Sacramento, Calf., Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023.Andrew Nixon / CapRadio
Officials are urging people to use common sense, such as avoiding travel during the storm — and avoiding driving through water – and heeding evacuation orders when they arrive.
“Floods kill more individuals than any other natural disaster. We’ve already had more deaths in this flood storm, since Dec. 21, than we had in the last two fire seasons,” Cal OES Director Nancy Ward said during the press conference.
The latest in what feels like a never-ending series of storms is scheduled to hit California Sunday night and could bring up to 4 inches of rain to the Sacramento Valley, and more in the foothills. The National Weather Service says extreme winds will return Sunday evening, with the strongest gusts coming from midnight to 2 p.m. Monday.
State officials are concerned about the Monday morning commute in Sacramento and the Bay Area.
“Given the ability of these events to come in stronger than forecasted … we need you to stay focused” on dangerous conditions and evacuation warnings, said California Department of Water Resources Director Karla Nemeth. “Even moderate levels or rainfall can produce significant flooding impacts.”
Several officials describe this spree of storms as a new normal due to global warming.
“We know that these storms are super-charged by climate change,” said Wade Crowfoot, director of the state Natural Resources Agency.
Newsom agreed that these storms will be part of the California “climate whiplash” experience.
“Hot’s getting a lot hotter, dry’s getting a lot drier, and wet is getting a lot wetter, as well,” Newsom said.
This next storm is forecasted to last through Tuesday, but another atmospheric river could hit the state as soon as January 12.
10:25 a.m.: Wilton residents warned to evacuate due to flood risk
Sacramento County officials are warning residents in the Wilton area to evacuate with more rain in the forecast and the potential for the area to flood quickly.
"Rising water may spill over onto the nearest roadways and cut off access to leave the area," the county Office of Emergency Services wrote in a press release. "Last weekend, exit routes flooded quickly for residents leaving Wilton, so we are urging residents to get out now while roads are still clear; don’t wait for an evacuation order."
The powerful New Year's Eve storm breached two levees on the Cosumnes River near Wilton, causing flooding that shut down Highway 99 and killed two people who were stranded in their vehicles.
An evacuation center has been set up at the Sacramento Asian Sports Foundation located at 9040 High Tech Ct in Elk Grove.
Another storm system is forecast to hit the region Sunday evening into Monday, with another 2-4 inches of rain in the valley and as much as 5 inches in the foothills.
9 a.m.: Widespread damage, power outages in Sacramento following powerful winds
Neighbors work to cover a hole in the roof of the home of Shawna McMillan in the Colonial Heights neighborhood of Sacramento on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023.Chris Hagan / CapRadio
Residents across the Sacramento area are waking up to power outages, downed trees and property damage after extreme winds tore through the region Saturday night into Sunday morning.
Shawna McMillan lives in the Colonial Heights neighborhood of Sacramento. A little after midnight on Sunday morning, McMillan says she was in the back of her home trying to calm her dogs as winds picked up.
"And then I hear a loud boom and see a flash, and then immediately the power goes out," she said. "So that was behind the house in the back alley. And right after that went out, I heard the loud boom from the I think transformer going out and then another crash."
The crash was a large redwood tree hitting the front of her home, her neighbor's home and the car in their driveway. The tree landed just in front of their front door, narrowly missing their living room, damaging their roof and sending a branch into their kitchen.
"I didn't realize the extent of the problem until my husband got home from work and was banging on the back window because he clearly couldn't get to the front door," McMillan said. "And I had this sheer moment of emotion when I saw it because it's like a few feet from our couch."
Overall, McMillan said she was grateful the damage wasn't worse and that no one was hurt.
"Nothing that can't be replaced," she said.
As of 9 a.m., around 275,000 SMUD customers remain without power, down from more than 330,000 just after midnight. The National Weather Service says damaging winds will return Sunday evening, with the strongest gusts coming from midnight to 2 p.m. Monday.
7:15 a.m.: Nearly half of SMUD customers without power as extreme wind, thunderstorms roll through Sacramento Valley
More than 300,000 SMUD customers are without power with tens of thousands of others in the region also disconnected after a powerful storm system brought extreme winds and thunderstorms throughout the region Saturday night into Sunday morning.
The power is out in at least 54,000 homes and businesses in San Joaquin County as of 7:15 a.m., with 25,000 out in Yolo, 17,000 in El Dorado and 5,000 in Placer, according to poweroutage.us. Overall, more than half a million California power customers are without service.
According to the National Weather Service, wind gusts hit 60-70 mph through the region, including 64 mph at Mather Airport and 60 at the Sacramento International Airport. A wind advisory is in effect until 1 p.m. Sunday.
There are numerous reports of downed trees throughout the region, and officials say travel could be dangerous as more thunderstorms and strong winds are possible Sunday morning. A woman was killed in Sacramento after being struck by a fallen tree Saturday night.
A flood watch for much of Northern California west of the Sierra Nevada remains in effect until 4 p.m. Wednesday, as another strong atmospheric river is forecast to hit the region Monday.
12:30 a.m.: More than 330,000 Sacramento customers without power as extreme winds slam into region
Saturday, Jan. 7
7:35 p.m.: Woman dies in Sacramento after being hit by falling tree, officials say
A woman died after being hit by a falling tree in the River District Saturday night, Sacramento Fire officials said.
At around 6:45 p.m., fire crews were called to a levee near North 5th Street after a woman suffered severe injuries from a falling tree. The woman was located and taken to a hospital, where she later died, fire officials said.
Sacramento Fire Captain Keith Wade said that “early indications point to the wind as a contributing factor for the tree falling,” but that county park rangers are currently investigating the incident.
Sacramento — and much of Northern California — is under a wind advisory, issued by the National Weather Service through 1 p.m. Sunday.
4 p.m.: National Weather Service issues flood, wind advisories through weekend and into next week
As the region prepares for the next in a succession of storms this week, the National Weather Service has issued a number of advisories for the region, including in the Sacramento and Northern San Joaquin Valleys, Carquinez Strait and Delta, northeast foothills and Motherlode.
The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services has provided a resource page to help people prepare for the upcoming series of storms.
A wind advisory remains in effect until 1 p.m. on Sunday with south to southeast winds predicted at 20-30 mph, gusting to 40-50 mph. The strongest winds are expected Saturday evening into Sunday morning.
Due to these wind gusts, there is the possibility of falling tree limbs and branches, as well as some power outages. Homeowners are advised to secure outside objects to prevent them from moving around.
Extensive rainfall is expected Saturday evening through early Sunday morning.
This anticipated rainfall, coupled with already saturated soils and wind gusts, may increase the risk of trees falling.
Officials are urging added caution when driving, particularly in taller vehicles.
A flood watch is also in effect from 12 a.m. Sunday through 4 p.m. Wednesday, with the likelihood of creeks and streams overflowing their banks. Flooding may also occur where there is poor drainage, including storm drains and ditches, which may become clogged with debris. In addition, there may be extensive street flooding, including in urban areas. There are particular concerns about rivers rising above flood stage, especially along the Sacramento and Cosumnes Rivers.
3 p.m.: State, federal governments working to prepare flood-mitigation tools across the county
With rain listed in the National Weather Service’s “extreme” category in the forecast for Monday, state and federal governmental organizations are helping ramp up Sacramento County’s flood mitigation efforts.
The Federal Bureau of Reclamation started increasing water releases from the Folsom Reservoir on Friday in order to make room for more rainwater.
California Department of Water Resources operates a Flood Operations Center, in which teams coordinate with local municipalities to coordinate flood response. Officials with the department report they’ve sent flood-fighting equipment and materials like sandbags to 49 sites across California, including in Sacramento County.
In Sloughhouse on Saturday, crews with the DWR’s Flood Operations Center delivered sandbags and equipment to a levee along Deer Creek, where rising waters are threatening homes and infrastructure. Members of the California Conservation Corps filled the sandbags and reinforced the levee.
And the Army Corps of Engineers has announced that it is on standby to provide weather-related assistance to the DWR, if needed.
“We have activated our emergency operations center and are in constant communication with local, state, and federal partners,” officials said in a prepared statement on Friday. “All major flood control dams [and] reservoirs have ample storage and are currently operating as normal.”
1:45 p.m.: Officials warn that incoming storms could prompt more evacuation orders in southern Sacramento County
Sacramento County officials announced Saturday that they are “anticipating additional evacuation orders over the next few days,” as rain returns to the region.
Residents who live in southern Sacramento County in an area prone to flooding are encouraged to evacuate livestock before heavy rain starts to pummel the region on Monday.
On Jan. 1 — after levees along the Cosumnes River breached and prompted flooding — the county issued evacuation orders and warnings for residents living in the Point Pleasant, Glanville Tract, and Franklin Pond areas, and a shelter-in-place order for residents of Wilton. These orders and warnings were lifted on Friday.
11:25 a.m.: Some Sacramento County parks reopen after heavy rain, wind last week
Many of the Sacramento Regional Parks that were closed as heavy rain and strong wind pummeled the area last week have reopened, county officials announced on Friday.
Not all parks in the Regional Parks system were reopened, however. Discovery, Howe Avenue Access, Watt Avenue Access, Dry Creek Ranch House Access, Dry Creek Parking Lot and Cherry Island Sports parks remain closed, according to county officials.
County officials also re-closed Gristmill and Sailor Bar Boat Launch (Illinois Access) parks on Saturday.
There is no estimate for when the parks will reopen.
11 a.m.: Heavy rain and snow today with additional storms possible into late next week, forecasters say
Moderate to heavy rain and mountain snow is expected today, according to the National Weather Service. Flooding concerns continue through Sunday, and another system Monday through Tuesday. The heaviest rains are expected on Monday.
The valley is expected to see 4-7 inches of rain and the foothills 6-12 inches.
Friday, Jan. 6
5 p.m.: PG&E bringing in crews from 7 states and Canada to try and catch up to power outages
PG&E spokesperson Jim Monninger said the utility is working to restore service to the remaining 40,000 customers who are without power after it was knocked out Wednesday night. But with more storms expected in the days to come, the company is bringing in mutual aid crews from other utility companies in both the United States and Canada to help ease workloads.
Roughly 500,000 PG&E customers lost power Wednesday and Thursday after heavy winds caused trees to fall and damage numerous pieces of the utility’s system. Monninger said crews are working to restore power to the majority of its customers, “if not [Friday night], by the end of the day on Saturday.”
But more inclement weather is expected to hit the region this weekend and through next week, according to meteorologists with the National Weather Service. In anticipation of continued rain and wind, the utility company is bringing in 25 mutual aid crews to assist with response.
“[Mutual aid] crews are coming in from at least seven different states. Also heard that we're getting mutual aid from British Columbia and also potentially a crew all the way from Wisconsin,” he said. “We're getting resources in a manner that we've never had in the past.”
Monninger said the mutual aid crews will help PG&E restore power to more customers over the weekend in addition to helping with storm-related needs next week.
10:45 a.m.: Sacramento County lifts evacuation, shelter in place orders for flooded communities near Cosumnes River
All evacuation orders, warnings and shelter-in-place orders have been lifted in the Point Pleasant, Glanville Track, Franklin Pond and Wilton areas, Sacramento County Office of Emergency Services officials announced Friday morning.
The areas were placed under these warnings and orders on Sunday after levees breached along the Cosumnes River and forced flooding in several southern Sacramento county communities. At least three people have been found dead — two near Highway 99 and Dillard Road, and another near Galt — in the days since flooding hit the area.
County OES officials warned residents returning to the area that rain and winds are forecast for the weekend and through next week, and that conditions could “change rapidly.”
8 a.m.: Light rain expected Friday as residents get time to prepare for more storms
The Sacramento Valley will get a bit of a break from wind and rain Friday, though another storm system is expected to come in Saturday, bringing with it renewed flooding concerns and heavy snow in the mountains.
A flood watch is in place for much of Northern California west of the Sierra Nevada from midnight Saturday morning through 4 p.m. Wednesday, with possible atmospheric rivers returning Saturday into Sunday and Monday into Tuesday. Around 1-2 inches of rain are forecasted for this weekend, with the heaviest rain expected Monday.
Meanwhile, a winter storm warning will be in effect from 4 a.m. Saturday to 4 p.m. Tuesday. The National Weather Service is forecasting 1-3 feet this weekend above 4,000 feet, with several more feet possible in Monday's storm.
Residents can expect difficult mountain travel, including chain controls and possible whiteout conditions, the weather service says.
The forecast for the next round of storms to hit Northern California, released by the National Weather Service in Sacramento at 8:45 a.m. Friday.NWS Sacramento
Here are tips to prepare for the coming storms, including dealing with power outages and debris and signing up for emergency alerts.
Thursday, Jan. 5
3:20 p.m.: PG&E working to restore power to at least 40,000 more customers by end of day
PG&E’s senior vice president of operations Janisse Quiñones said as of noon Thursday, 440,000 customers experienced outages from storms Wednesday and this past weekend.
Of those 440,000 customers, around 115,000 customers are still without power, and Quiñones said in a press conference she anticipates crews will work to restore power to 40,000 customers by Thursday night.
While “PG&E has been preparing for this for a long time,” she said the dangerous conditions and hazards faced by repair crews mean that customers without power will have to continue waiting for power restoration.
“We don't have access to many of the areas, or we have really dangerous conditions for our crews, or trees are falling around them,” she said. “We have flooding and soil movement when they're trying to restore our service.”
Company officials say they prioritize restoring power to customers based on the importance of their equipment and location, meaning that emergency facilities like hospitals and fire stations are first priority, followed by outages affecting the largest number of customers.
Currently, PG&E has around 3,700 contract and mutual aid personnel, including electric crews, technicians, system inspectors and vegetation crews, helping restore power across the state.
While PG&E customers can check the status of any power outages in their area via an interactive map on the company’s website, some people may be seeing an “Estimated restoration: To be announced” message when entering their address.
“Right now, all our crews are outside and all of our troublemen are doing assessments,” Quiñones explained. “What we don’t want is to offer a time and date [for restoration] and it’s not accurate, so that customers can plan appropriately. If they have not received it… it’s usually access issues.”
The PG&E outage map is available in sixteen different languages.
1 p.m: Sacramento escaped major damage from latest storm, but wind and rain remain in the forecast
It was a relatively quiet morning in Land Park and Midtown after a storm that was expected to be ferocious failed to fully materialize.
Residents who woke up expecting downed trees and branches may have seen some, but nowhere close to what they witnessed after a surprisingly wet and windy New Year's Eve a few days before. That said, state weather monitors say we’re not out of the woods yet, with more rainy and windy conditions expected on Saturday into Sunday and Monday into Tuesday.
On the streets Thursday morning, dog walkers enjoyed a brief flash of sunshine and calm conditions. Plenty of drivers moved unburdened through the downtown and Midtown areas. At Fremont Park, some city crew members picked up palm fronds, and an arborist chainsawed some fallen branches.
Not wanting to be surprised like last time, authorities and local city leaders warned people on social media to prepare for power outages and flooding and to sign up for emergency alerts. A big reminder was to stay off the streets. Three people died in south Sacramento County following the New Year's Eve storms.
There was relatively little need for that on Thursday morning, as the roads were slick but not flooded and there were no travel restrictions on Highway 99, though the on and off ramps at Dillard road remain closed.
Watt Ave. near Alta Arden Expressway in the Arden Arcade area of Sacramento County on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023.Andrew Nixon / CapRadio
12:30 p.m.: Aging infrastructure around California rivers could lead to more flooding as weather ramps up in severity, researchers say
While large rivers like the Sacramento and San Joaquin have not flooded over during this storm, other smaller rivers have seen some flooding, like the Cosumnes River near Elk Grove. This river, like many others in the state, has levees built around it to keep back flooding.
But as this storm has raged on, some of these levees have broken and failed to prevent overflow.
“Some of them have been built decades ago,” said Helen Dahlke, an associate professor in Integrated Hydrologic Sciences at UC Davis. “And we haven't really invested that much funding into upkeeping, just even checking the status of these levees, so there is definitely some aging infrastructure that could potentially become an issue.”
Dahlke said much of this infrastructure was built to control streamflows decades ago, when residents had different expectations of California’s climate. It’s not equipped to the current reality: Warming temperatures due to climate change could potentially ramp up the severity of future storms, which means more streamflow to manage, she said.
But Dahlke added that flooding is a natural part of California’s ecosystem and feeds into the state’s underground water supply; it can’t be avoided completely.
“Before we had settlers and cities moving in, much of the [Central Valley] actually flooded regularly during these storms,” she said. “And that was really the main mechanism for getting water into our groundwater systems.”
Moving forward, Dahlke said that flooding and aging levee breaks are likely, so the next step is to be proactive about responding. Mechanisms to hold back water, like reservoirs, will still be necessary tools, but she said that there’s also discussion about infrastructure that allows rivers to flow more naturally.
“There is, for example, discussion along the river to set back some of these levees to widen the floodplain area so that the river has a little bit more room when it's really peaking,” she said. ”That would also have really positive benefits for groundwater recharge since more areas flooded and then more water could potentially seep into the ground.”
Noon: Flooding concerns continue into next week, forecasters say
Although the storm overnight Wednesday brought strong winds, reported damage in the Sacramento region was less than expected. But additional rainstorms over the next few days will bring more flooding risks.
From Wednesday to Thursday morning, Sacramento County received rainfall amounts ranging from half an inch to about an inch and a half, according to the National Weather Service. Into Thursday afternoon, meteorologist Idamis Del Valle-Shoemaker said the Sacramento area can expect periods of heavier rainfall with showers and possible isolated thunderstorms.
Drier conditions and lighter winds are in the forecast Friday, Del Valle-Shoemaker said. But flooding concerns will continue with two more storms expected Saturday to Sunday and Monday to Tuesday.
“The rivers, small streams and creeks are already running high due to the extended period of precipitation that we have seen since last month and continuing into this month,” Del Valle-Shoemaker said. “We are expecting additional periods of widespread moderate to heavy precipitation that could bring additional renewed concerns for urban and river small stream flooding in the area.”
As of Thursday morning, no major freeway flooding was reported in Sacramento County. But the NWS received a few reports of road flooding in other counties in the region, Del Valle-Shoemaker said. The reports included California Highway Patrol noting mud, rock and dirt blocking Marysville Road in Yuba County and water ponding on County Road 306 in Glenn County.
No debris flows have been reported in burn scars of the August Complex, Caldor, Dixie and Mosquito fires. A flash flood watch for possible debris flows expired Thursday morning.
The NWS forecasted moderate to heavy precipitation for the storm ending Thursday, Del Valle-Shoemaker said. She added that meteorologists warned of significant wind impacts and said they received widespread reports of downed trees and winds of 45 to 55 miles per hour across the Sacramento Valley.
A tree and parking meter lay torn out of the ground at Crocker Park in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023.Andrew Nixon / CapRadio
“The winds might have been a little bit lower than we were expecting, but nevertheless, we still did see downed trees and power outages,” Del Valle-Shoemaker said.
As of late Thursday morning, about 700 SMUD customers were without power, according to its outage map.
6 a.m.: Thunderstorms, high winds hit Northern California overnight
The strongest front of the latest atmospheric river to hit Northern California rolled through the region Wednesday night into Thursday morning, bringing thunderstorms in some areas, powerful wind gusts and dangerous travel in the Sacramento Valley and Sierra Nevada.
More than 180,000 homes and businesses are without power throughout California, though many of those are in coastal counties and the Bay Area, according to poweroutage.us. More than 4,000 homes in El Dorado County and 2,500 in Placer and Sacramento counties were without power as of 6 a.m. Thursday, with fewer than 1,000 out in Yolo County.
Wind gusts over 50 mph were recorded in Sacramento, El Dorado and Yolo counties overnight, with one clocked at 132 mph in Placer County at Alpine Meadows in Lake Tahoe. More than 70 flights were canceled at San Francisco International Airport, according to the Associated Press. A high wind watch remains in place for much of Northern California until 4 p.m. Thursday.
While flood impacts in the Sacramento Valley appear to be less than during Saturday's damaging New Year's Eve storm, urban and roadway flooding continues to be a risk, according to the National Weather Service.
A flood watch is in place through 10 a.m. Thursday from Butte County down to northern Sacramento County, including the Sacramento metro region and portions of the foothills through western El Dorado County. Officials recommended using caution if you need to travel Thursday morning.
Wednesday, Jan. 4
8:30 p.m.: Rain, wind increasing, Bay Area and North Bay power outages increase, too
This initial phase of the storm is bringing with it 20-25 mph winds, with frequent gusts, and more-or-less steady rain (there have been a few patches without precipitation). According to the National Weather Service’s radar, the more intense cells from the storm will arrive after midnight.
Currently, there are pockets of SMUD customers without power. But if the PG&E power outages in the San Francisco Bay Area this evening are any indication, Sacramento may be experiencing more outages by Thursday morning.
The storm is forecasted to last into Thursday evening.
5:15 p.m.: Yolo County declares local state of emergency in response to storm
Yolo County officials announced the county has declared a local state of emergency “due to the exceptional windfall and rain conditions throughout Yolo County.”
This past weekend saw over 26,000 customers in the county wake up without power, and the strong winds accompanying the storm are expected to cause further outages.
“The severity of the winter storm in Yolo County highlights the need to take precautions to ensure the safety and well-being of Yolo County residents,” Yolo County Board of Supervisors chair Oscar Villegas said in a press release.
Officials urged those in the county to sign up for emergency alerts in the county. More information about Yolo County-specific resources is available here.
4:24 p.m.: Wind begins to hit Sacramento Valley, power outages increase with rain expected this evening
Nearly 4,000 SMUD customers in South Oak Park and near the UC Davis Medical Center and Broadway/Stockton Boulevard lost their power as of 4:21 p.m., according to the utility’s power-outage map.
These outages are the first as a new storm approaches the Sacramento Valley. As few as 450 customers were without power at times Wednesday, down from more than 150,000 during the peak of Saturday's storm.
While residents in the Sacramento Valley have been bracing for another round of wind and rain, the storm has taken some time to develop. But wind speeds have started to increase this afternoon, and forecasters still expect gusts up to 60 mph and heavy rains this evening.
The storm, fueled by an off-shore "bomb cyclone" event, is hitting the California coast before making its way inland. According to the National Weather Service in San Francisco, steady and heavier rains could start to hit Yolo County and western Sacramento County between 8-10 p.m., and the eastern half of Sacramento County closer to 10 p.m.
4 p.m.: Second person found dead near Dillard Road, site of New Year’s weekend flooding
A second person was found dead in south Sacramento County, near the site of this past weekend’s Cosumnes River levee breaches and subsequent flooding, California Highway Patrol officials said on Wednesday.
CHP teams were working along Dillard Road near Highway 99 on Wednesday morning, recovering submerged vehicles in the aftermath of the weekend’s flooding. At around 10 a.m., officers discovered the body of an adult woman roughly a half a mile south of the road.
Officer Mark Leavitt with the CHP’s South Sacramento office said the department believes the woman might be “linked to one of the recovered vehicles.”
One other person was found dead in a submerged vehicle near Dillard Road on Sunday. Cosumnes Deputy Fire Chief Dan Quiggle said the department believes “the vehicle was washed off the roadway sometime [Saturday night], and it appears the person never exited the vehicle.”
At least three people have died in Northern California as a result of recent storms. On Saturday, a 72-year-old man died under a fallen tree at the Lighthouse Field State Beach in Santa Cruz, according to California State Parks.
1:35 p.m.: Levees can’t prevent Highway 99 flooding, county says
In the wake of the New Year’s Eve storm that closed Highway 99 south of Elk Grove, Sacramento County officials said no amount of levee improvements can control future flooding. Two levees breached along the Cosumnes River on New Year’s Eve, causing portions of the highway to shut down between Elk Grove and Galt for about two days.
The Cosumnes River is a wild river, so it doesn’t have a dam, county spokesperson Kimberly Nava said in a media advisory. The National Park Service classifies a river as wild when the waterway is mostly left in natural condition, isn’t confined in a reservoir and its shorelines aren’t changed much.
Levees were built along both sides of the river to use the land for agriculture, Nava said. No levees exist south of Freeman Road, which is in Wilton.
The levees and all the properties along the Cosumnes are privately owned, Nava said. Property owners are responsible for the levees on their land unless they live in a reclamation district.
Nava added that Reclamation District 800, which maintains levees in Byron Tract, gets legal access to upkeep levees on private property.
“Reclamation District 800 does not have means to bring the levee system up to a higher standard,” Nava said. “Further, no amount of levee work can control flooding on Hwy 99. Highway 99 is low and subject to flooding.”
The Cosumnes River runs about 50 miles and is the only river on the western side of the Sierra Nevada without major dams, according to the Water Education Foundation. It begins in El Dorado County and ends in Mokelumne City, where it merges with the Mokelumne River in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
12:30 p.m.: After state-wide declaration of emergency, officials say they’re focused on preparing for coming storms
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a state emergency in response to the oncoming storm.
In a press briefing shortly after Newsom signed the declaration, state leaders said they’re currently preparing for potential effects of the incoming storm — such as getting ready to set up no-identification-required shelters with the Red Cross, if needed — and focusing on emergency response to the aftermath of the New Years’ weekend.
“The challenge of today, and in coming days, is to utilize our well-organized, well-established and heavily drilled framework of emergency flood response,” said Wade Crowfoot, the state’s secretary of natural resources. He said equipment has been “pre-positioned” throughout the state in preparation for potential storm impacts.
He also said the Department of Water Resources is currently providing technical assistance to Sacramento County crews working to close the breached levees at the Consumnes River and protect the region from coming storms.
However, Karla Nemeth, who oversees the department, said given the current state of repairs, “it’s unlikely that these repairs prevent potential additional flooding on 99.”
The state is continuing to monitor additional storms that could arrive this weekend and next week. So far, flood-fighting materials like sandbags, muscle walls and rocks have been distributed to 49 sites throughout the state.
“As we have multiple storms in sequence, it doesn’t require the same amount of precipitation to inflict significant damage,” Nemeth said, urging Californians to stay up-to-date with their county’s emergency response alerts.
She added that particular areas at risk for flooding, mudslides and significant debris flow include the coast from Crescent City to Los Angeles, Mendocino County along the Russian and Navarro Rivers and burn scar areas throughout the state.
However, Nemeth says the state believes it has enough capacity to absorb all the precipitation from the incoming storms and has activated 3 of its 6 weirs, barriers that act to direct water to a bypass and prevent flooding. The last time the Sacramento Weir was opened was in 2017, also during winter storms.
“We have not yet activated all the infrastructure that is available to us as these storms progress — that is a good sign,” she said.
Officials also urged Californians to stay off the roads for non-essential trips until, at the very least, the peak of the storm subsides. In response to the storm’s impact on travel, Caltrans has activated its 12 emergency centers throughout the state.
For those who need to travel, Caltrans has multiple options where you can get real-time traffic and road closure information, including its website and mobile app.
State-managed healthcare plans are required to provide help to survivors of natural disasters, including floods. If you’re having a problem obtaining services, officials recommend contacting the Department of Managed Healthcare Help Center at 188-466-2219 or visit healthhelp.ca.gov. More resources are available in the CalHHS Emergency Resource Guide.
Noon: It’s not raining, it’s not windy – what’s going on with this storm?
As you know, a powerful storm is bearing-down on Northern California. But if you look outside, for the past couple hours we witnessed an absence of any wind, let alone extreme gusts, and folks have taken the moment to squeeze in a final dog walk or errand before the rain really kicks in.
That said, a storm cell is off the coast of San Francisco, currently, and farther north is poised to slam into Eureka soon (officials have closed Highway 101 already in that area). Here’s where we are at with the current forecast, according to the National Weather Service:
- Winds: They’re expected to kick in this afternoon and remain powerful until Thursday afternoon, as well. These southerly winds will be anywhere from 25-35 mph, but we could see gusts up to 60 mph, which would rival the extreme winds from New Year’s Eve.
- Rain: The heavy rain will arrive this evening and will continue overnight and into Thursday. This is anticipated to be strong rainfall that, again, rivals what we experienced in Sacramento on New Year’s Eve
- Flash flood warnings: They are in effect from now through Friday morning, and residents who live near creeks or streams need to be mindful, especially when traveling by car.
- Power outages: There remain just over 1,000 SMUD customers without power, down from a high over about 160,000 on New Year’s Eve. But power outages could return when the high-winds kick-in this evening.
Big picture: The storm is coming, and this afternoon is your final moment to prepare.
11:45 a.m.: Rain from continued atmospheric rivers will likely help replenish state water supply
While the coming storm won’t fix the state’s issues with drought, it does give Northern California a leg up. Precipitation from the storm will likely help replenish reservoirs and better prepare the region’s water supply ahead of next summer.
Nicholas Pinter, associate director of UC Davis’s Center for Watershed Sciences, said that he’s optimistic about the outcome of this storm.
“With the water behind us and the forecast coming in, it's pretty sure that we're going to fill all the reservoirs in northern California and at least temporarily take a bite out of our drought situation,” he said.
It’s been years since California has seen a storm of this magnitude, and Pinter said this is good for the state’s water supplies. But upcoming stormy weather could bring more negative impacts if it becomes more severe, he said. For now, heavy rain hasn’t led to the flooding of bigger rivers like the Sacramento or San Joaquin, which Pinter said is largely due to the help of nearby reservoirs.
“The hope is that it's going to stay spread out,” he said. “The fear is that this is going to continue, [that] we're going to get… this whole freight train of storms coming in. We're watching very closely what the Pacific is going to send us.”
Pinter said that he’s hoping for smaller, continuous storms moving forward, but it’s hard to predict what will happen next. Among researchers, California is known for its widely variable weather.
9 a.m.: Rain, wind and snow begin to arrive
The forecasted atmospheric river has started to hit Northern California, with strong wind, rain and snow. According to the National Weather Service, the storm will likely bring additional flooding, downed trees and power outages, and dangerous mountain travel to the region.
Precipitation Wednesday is now expected to come in two waves, with a weaker system in the morning, a break in the afternoon, and the strongest Wednesday evening into Thursday morning.
Officials are recommending residents avoid travel if possible, especially in the mountains, or try to do so Wednesday before dark. Drivers should stay away from any standing water on roads and allow more time to reach their destination.
Climatologists say a weather pattern known as a bomb cyclone will remain well offshore, but will still direct fronts carrying heavy rain and powerful winds today. UCLA climate Scientist Daniel Swain says one silver lining is the major reservoirs in Northern California are still relatively low, which means less of a chance of flooding downstream.
"The smaller reservoirs have largely filled up already during the storm sequence, but the really big ones have the largest storm and runoff river flow buffering capacity, like Shasta and Oroville for example, are still quite low," Swain said. "So, they have a lot of headroom right now to absorb a lot of water. So, we're not going to see immediate large releases from big reservoirs because there's just a lot of space."
City and county crews in the Sacramento region and throughout Northern California used yesterday's break from the rain to distribute sandbags, work to clear storm drains and downed trees, and restore power to people without electricity.
Two more storms are expected to hit in the next week, the next starting on Saturday and another on Monday.
Tuesday, Jan. 3
Some areas remain under evacuation, shelter-in-place orders
A flood watch is in place for much of the Sacramento Valley starting at 4 a.m. Wednesday until 10 a.m. Friday, with 1-2 inches of additional rain expected. You can find ways to prepare for the storms here.
Residents in the Wilton area are still sheltering in place and Point Pleasant residents remain under an evacuation order.
Jermaine Starks from Elk Grove was in Wilton with his family Tuesday evening filling sandbags to help his in-laws.
"They got flooded out of nowhere. And it was bad," Starks said. "It was the first time that it ever came from the back and almost threatened to, like, get in the house. So we're a little worried, especially with, you know, what everybody's saying is going down tomorrow."
Starks said his family had filled around 150 sandbags, and are hoping that would be enough to protect the home. He said it had been inspiring to see community members help each other through the storms.
"You really see a different side of humanity when stuff like this happens," Starks said. "And that's been really cool. My kids helping fill other families’ sandbags. I'm a little over it now, though."
Wilton residents Bryan and Shelley Jones load sandbags at the Wilton Fire Station to protect an elderly neighbor's home, Tuesday, Jan 3, 2023.Andrew Nixon / CapRadio
Sacramento County Public Information Officer Matthew Robinson said the floodwaters are receding, but not quickly enough.
"We just feel that what's coming next is going to cause the waters to increase in the areas again. Fortunately, we've been told by the National Weather Service that the upcoming storm will be colder and that will help reduce the runoff."
The last storm caused rain to melt some of the Sierra snowpack, sending additional water into area rivers like the Cosumnes. If runoff isn't a factor with the next storm, flooding and damage potential would be somewhat less.
Wind watch in place starting Wednesday morning
Wind may be as much of a concern as rain on Wednesday. Gusts up to 60 mph are expected in Sacramento, similar to those that hit the region Saturday night, when more than 150,000 SMUD customers lost power.
"It's starting to look like we are mostly worrying about the winds with this one," said Bill Rasch, science and operations officer with the National Weather Service in Sacramento. "It looks like a large area of damaging winds."
Rasch said residents could expect a high wind warning will be in place starting 10 a.m. Wednesday, with the strongest gusts in the afternoon to early Thursday morning.
This storm could also cause possible debris flow in the burn scars of the August Complex, Caldor, Dixie and Mosquito fires.
"It's a quicker hit in an 18-hour frame, so there is some concern that the rain amounts on the burn scars are going to be getting close to causing problems," Rasch with the weather service said.
After Wednesday and Thursday the region will not get much time to prepare before the next systems hit Saturday through Monday. Sacramento could see another 4-5 inches, though the weather service says there is still a lot of uncertainty about exactly how large those storms could be.
Some parks, Sacramento Zoo to close
Sacramento County officials announced that all regional parks will be closed on Wednesday, Thursday and possibly Friday, depending on weather conditions. The American River Multi-Use and Dry Creek Parkway trails will also be closed.
“With the storm that just passed saturating the area’s soil, Regional Parks is preparing for the likely event that gusts from the upcoming storm will bring down a large number of trees,” reads a Tuesday county release.
The city of Stockton announced it was immediately closing parks within city limits on Tuesday, also due to tree hazards. City officials did not specify how long parks will be closed.
The Sacramento Zoo also announced it would be closed Wednesday and Thursday, and that animals would stay in their indoor habitats during the storm.
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