Updated 4:45 p.m. Tuesday
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Northern California residents are bracing for another round of powerful storms this week after flooding from a New Year's Eve deluge killed one person, prompted the evacuation of more than 1,000 incarcerated people in a county jail and washed away a section of a levee system that protects mostly rural farmland.
Another strong storm with high rainfall rates and winds is headed for Northern California, expected to hit late Wednesday and last into early Thursday. On top of the New Year's Eve rainstorms, which saturated the soil, more water is likely to produce mild to moderate flooding, and some flooding on smaller river systems like the Russian River.
While smaller reservoirs are filling up, there is still plenty of capacity in larger reservoirs at the moment, given California's prolonged drought. The wet weather is expected to continue off and on for the next several days.
"The main concern really are the smaller watersheds and steep slopes, mudslides, shallow landslides, urban and creek flooding that could get quite significant for a period of time on Wednesday night in some locations, given that everything is now completely saturated and streams and creeks are already running high," said UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain. "In some cases, there's some residual flooding already ongoing."
Swain said heavy precipitation and strong winds could also affect parts of Southern California as far south as Los Angeles County. There will be some flooding no matter what, he said, but the question is whether it's widespread minor-to-moderate flooding or significantly more severe.
"This is really going to help a lot with the short-term drought in Northern California, perhaps even raise short-term drought conditions," said Swain. "But it's going to take a lot more to completely obviate the longer-term multiyear drought impacts. And in the broader Colorado River Basin context, this event isn't going to do very much at all."
In south Sacramento County, crews rushed to repair a 200-foot section of a roughly 34-mile levee system along the Cosumnes River that protects just over 53 square miles of mostly vineyards and cattle ranches. Crews hope to finish repairs before the next storm is forecast to hit on Wednesday. If they can’t, they’ll seal whatever progress they have made with plastic and sandbags and hope for the best.
A powerful “atmospheric river” storm dumped up to 5 inches of rain in the Sacramento region on Saturday, said Eric Kurth, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
Rainfall in downtown San Francisco hit 5.46 inches on New Year’s Eve, making it the second-wettest day on record, behind a November 1994 deluge, the National Weather Service said.