March 29, 2023

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California, hit by a “bomb hurricane,” is bracing for the worst

California Alert. Strong winds and heavy rains that could cause severe flooding have been battering parts of the largest western U.S. state since Wednesday, January 4, where soils are already waterlogged by recent storms.

The center and north of the “Golden State,” especially around San Francisco and the state capital, Sacramento, are most at risk. Officials have issued several warnings, warning that the storm has the potential to kill people.

The first effects were felt Wednesday afternoon: More than 60,000 homes were without power, according to the site. Power shortageAccording to the site, more than 80 flights to or from the San Francisco airport were canceled. Airplane. In some counties in the region (Mendocino, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara), many roads are closed due to flooding, downed trees or landslides.

Wind gusts of up to 110 km/h are expected, according to the US Weather Service (NWS). Heaviest rain is also expected to hit the region, with up to 10 centimeters of rain in San Francisco Bay and 1.2 meters of snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Flooding is expected to continue on Thursday.

read more: The article is reserved for our subscribers United States: Climate Extremes in California

The region must prepare “Major flooding, submerged roads, landslides, downed trees, major power outages, immediate disruption of trade and severe and possible loss of life”NWS says.

“Avoid going on the road”

California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, declared a state of emergency on Wednesday morning to facilitate emergency response and streamline the response of authorities in the event of an incident. San Francisco, for its part, set up an emergency operations center and interrupted the circulation of its famous “cable cars,” the trams that traverse the city’s steep streets with cable traction.

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“If you have no obligation, avoid going on the road”Municipal Public Works Officer Rachel Gordon warned.

Many schools in the city have announced in advance that they will be closed on Thursday. Bars and restaurants opted not to open until Wednesday and some residents were asked to work from home. Thousands of sandbags have been distributed to residents of flood-prone areas.

read more: The article is reserved for our subscribers Severe flooding along the US coast is likely to occur almost daily

“We are very concernedSan Francisco resident Deepak Srivastava told CBS. Spent the day stacking sandbags in front of all the garage entrances and fingers crossed that there is no more damage. “There was a similar flood in October [2022]sighed his wife Denise Srivastava. They’re calling it the storm of the century, but it looks like we’re going to get two of these in the same week. »

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Northern California is still reeling from the effects of a series of storms. A recent New Year’s Eve landslide caused a power outage. At least one person died after their car got stuck in the flood, officials said.

The soil is too dry to absorb the deluge

On December 31, 2022, San Francisco recorded the second wettest day in its history with 14 centimeters of rain since the initiative began. In this case, the soil in this area is draining A drought that has plagued the American West for two decadesA new deluge will be harder to absorb, increasing the risk of flash flooding.

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“This storm alone is likely to cause localized flooding and landslides.Summarizes Matt Solam, meteorologist for Agence France-Presse. But in recent wet conditions (…), Any additional rain will run off instead of being absorbed by the ground. »

read more: The American Southwest is threatened by a “mega-drought” in the 21st century

The rain expected on Wednesday comes from an “atmospheric river,” a narrow, river-like band in the atmosphere that carries large amounts of moisture from the tropics. In winter, without exception, this current phenomenon is accompanied by a “hurricane bomb”, which is capable of causing a sudden drop in pressure, thus creating very violent winds.

According to meteorologists, the series of storms hitting California right now is not stopping. “We expect another one by the end of the week.Matt Solam announces. Then several storms are likely to arrive in the next week. And maybe next week too. »

Le Monde with AP and AFP