Several storms, as part of an “atmospheric river,” have impacted California over the past two weeks and caused hundreds of thousands of customers to lose power, according to Poweroutage.us. As of Monday morning, the website shows that more than 100,000 are without power.
Since Dec. 26, San Francisco has received more than 10 inches of rain, while Mammoth Mountain, a popular ski area in the Eastern Sierra, got nearly 10 feet of snow, the National Weather Service has said.
The emergency declaration allows the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate disaster relief efforts and use emergency resources, said the White House in a statement Monday.
Biden, who is currently in Mexico, declared that an “emergency exists” in California following “successive and severe winter storms, flooding, and mudslides.” FEMA is authorized to provide “equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency,” the statement said.
Over the weekend, in anticipation of more storms, the National Weather Service warned of a “relentless parade of atmospheric rivers” that will likely hit California.
“Two major episodes of heavy rain and heavy mountain snow are expected to impact California in quick succession during the next couple of days in association with two of the more energetic and moisture-laden parade of cyclones that are aiming directly for California,” the Weather Service said Monday. “The heavy precipitation episode currently streaming into central California is expected to be the more robust of the two, resulting in heavy rainfall totals of 3-5 inches near the coast.”
And the second storm system will hit quickly on Tuesday with lower rainfall totals but will impact locations in Southern California, according to the federal agency. Heavy snow of 6 feet will fall across higher elevations of the Sierra Nevada mountains, located in the eastern portion of California, before snowfall tapers off on Wednesday.
There will likely be “additional instances of flooding” across California this week, it said. “This includes rapid water rises, mudslides, and the potential for major river flooding. Susceptible terrain and areas near recent burn scars will be most at risk for debris flows and rapid runoff.”
In the Los Angeles region, scattered rain fell during the weekend while stormy conditions were expected to return Monday, with the potential for up to 8 inches in foothill areas. High surf was expected through Tuesday, with large waves on west-facing beaches.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said 12 people lost their lives as a result of violent weather during the past 10 days, and he warned that this week’s storms could be even more dangerous. He urged people to stay home.
“Just be cautious over the course of the next week, particularly the next day or two or so,” Newsom said during a briefing with California officials outlining the state’s storm preparations.
The weather service’s Sacramento office said the region should brace for the latest atmospheric river to roar ashore late Sunday and early Monday. Evacuation warnings were in place for about 13,000 residents of a flood-prone area of Sonoma County north of San Francisco, where the swollen Russian River was expected to overspill its banks in the coming days.
“Widespread power outages, downed trees and difficult driving conditions will be possible,” the office said on Twitter.
And Sacramento County ordered evacuations for people living around Wilton, a town of about 6,000 roughly 20 miles southeast of downtown Sacramento, with warnings of imminent flooding. The rural area along the Cosumnes River saw flooding in an earlier storm.
“Residents must leave now before roads become impassable,” the county said.
The state Department of Transportation warned motorists to stay off mountain roads after closing a stretch of U.S. 395 in Mono County, along the Eastern Sierra, due to heavy snow, ice, and whiteout conditions.
“With the severe nature of this storm, Caltrans is asking all drivers to limit nonessential travel until the peak of the storm has passed,” the department said in a statement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.