California braces for another atmospheric river storm

California braces for another atmospheric river storm

California is bracing for another round of rain starting Monday as officials try to assess damage from severe flooding on the Central Coast and Central Valley, which left scores stranded and left entire blocks under water.

A levee failure on the Pajaro River in Monterey County — three miles upstream from the town of Pajaro — caused severe flooding in and around the farming town and prompted hundreds of evacuations.

More than 3,400 people in Monterey County remained under an evacuation order or warning late Saturday night, with more than 200 people sheltering at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds and a Salinas church.

Flooding or mudslides closed several stretches of highways Sunday morning around Watsonville in Santa Cruz County, including Highway 1 and both east and westbound State Route 152. Monterey County remained scattered with road closures from flooding, downed trees or power lines, and storm damage and debris. And the flooding also led to the closure Sunday morning of another major Bay Area artery — Interstate 880 in Fremont.

Cars were partially submerged next to houses in the flood waters.

Cars were partially submerged in floodwaters in Watsonville, Calif., on Saturday.

(Nic Coury/Associated Press)

Another atmospheric river will bring new flood concerns in Northern California beginning Monday and continuing through Tuesday night. California emergency officials said Sunday they were coordinating plans to position flood-fighting personnel, including swift water rescue teams.

The Bay Area is now seeing showers and thunderstorms, but “the focus will be on the next atmospheric river coming Monday night,” said Patrick Ayd, a meterologist with the National Weather Service. Flood and high wind watches will be in effect for the Bay Area and Central Coast beginning Monday night, he said.

The upcoming storms are expected to hit the same areas as the last cycle, Ayd said, with the worst effects at higher elevations.

As a result of the recent storms, “we have very saturated soils, which will make them more prone to flooding,” and power outages are expected, especially around Monterey, Ayd said. Rock and mud slides are also possible.

Jim Bagnall, a meteorologist with the weather service in Hanford, said some showers and thunderstorms are forecast today, mainly from Fresno County northward, but forecasters are already looking at the next storm system. which will arrive starting Monday, bringing up to six. inches of rain at higher elevations in the region.

An aerial view of almond blossom trees partially submerged in floodwaters.

An aerial view of almond blossom trees in floodwaters Saturday at Earlimart in California’s Tulare County.

(Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Rivers and creeks are “already flowing,” Bagnall said, “so additional water on top of that makes flooding our main concern,” especially in the Springville area of ​​Tulare County northeast of Porterville.

“Anywhere above the hills is going to be a concern,” he said. Bagnall urged residents to “pay attention to the forecast. Listen to local officials. And if they are told they have to get out, follow the advice of local officials there.

The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services warned Sunday that as rain, mountain snow and strong winds fall in Northern and Central California, flooding and power outages could follow. It recommends that people keep emergency kits at home, keep their cars full of gas and sign up for emergency alerts.

Southern California will get rain on Tuesday and Wednesday, with possible flooding in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, according to the National Weather Service.

“The next atmospheric river event doesn’t look like it’s going to be as strong, but when you have a flood on top of a flood, it just creates a bigger flood,” said Cindy Kobold, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “That means this next one could be even more impactful, because the ground is so saturated, and we’re going to have more rain, with wind gusts.”

Aerial view of vehicles on a flooded road.

Vehicles were detoured on flooded Road 144 Saturday as both sides of Highway 99 were closed due to major flooding in Earlimart in Tulare County.

(Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The biggest impact of the latest typhoon was in the town of Pajaro, which has a population of 1,700, mostly farm workers.

The levee on the Pajaro River breached Friday night, said Nicholas Pasculli, a Monterey County spokesman. Patrols noticed “bubbling up in the adjacent fields” at 11 pm, the first sign of trouble.

Thirty minutes later, the levee failed, Pasculli said. As of Saturday morning, he said, “the failure was about 100 feet wide.” Pajaro — with a population of 1,700, mostly farm workers — is underwater.

Andres Garcia, 39, said this is his third evacuation from Pajaro due to river flooding; in addition to January, there was one in 1995, when the town was flooded “worse” than today.

He and his wife and 8-year-old daughter left the city early Saturday morning, after they got a knock on the door from a sheriff’s deputy who urged them to evacuate. Garcia said they left before the water was too high, and he had no idea about the condition of his house.

Her neighbor, Laura Garcia, left shortly after dawn. He showed a video of water pouring into his house — hitting the crib, dining room set and shelves.

Both sides of Highway 99 are partially submerged in flood water and there are no vehicles on it.

Both sides of Highway 99 were closed Saturday due to flooding in Earlimart in Tulare County.

(Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Andres Garcia said many farm workers will lose their jobs as long as the water remains high and the fields are submerged.

“They can’t do anything like this,” he said.

County officials said more than 90 rescues were conducted in the Pajaro area from Friday night to Saturday morning. The flooding also caused possible contamination of drinking water, they warned, urging Pajaro residents not to use tap water for drinking or cooking until further notice.

Elsewhere in Monterey County, the Salinas River flooded around the community of San Ardo, prompting evacuation orders late Friday night. County officials said one person had to be airlifted after being stranded in the middle of a river near Jolon Road.

Major flooding was reported in Tulare County’s Springville area — where officials conducted dozens of water rescues Friday morning — and in Kernville, where the roaring Kern River detached houses and mobile homesmotivating evacuation.

Valeriana López, a 55-year-old resident of Tooleville in Tulare County, said the floodwaters did not enter her home but turned her yard into mud. He laid boards to cross the yard and was looking for sandbags to make a path.

Sheriff’s deputies went door to door Friday night urging residents to be prepared to leave, López said. But he chose to stay.

“I will trust in God, because there is nothing we can do,” he said. “We have nowhere to go.”

Times staff writer Ian James contributed to this report.