The U.S. Pacific Coast has been battered by a series of winter storms caused by an “atmospheric river” condition, leading to massive damage throughout the region.
This comes as winter storms pummeled much of the country’s northwest, especially upstate New York, which killed dozens of Americans.
The week’s first atmospheric river-induced storm affecting the West Coast arrived late Monday with howling winds, driving snow, and drenching rains as it spread south.
Atmospheric rivers are powerful streams of moisture that flow over the Pacific and can reportedly carry the same amount of water through the air as the mouth of the Mississippi, reported Bloomberg.
Power Outages, Flooding
Massive waves and powerful winds hit Oregon and Washington on Tuesday, leading to fatal road crashes, power outages, and flooded homes.
Five people have died in road-related accidents blamed on the storms.
A coastal flood warning for the Puget Sound region, including Seattle, Tacoma, and Olympia, remained in effect through Wednesday evening, according to the National Weather Service.
Low-lying property “will be inundated,” reported the weather service.
High tides caused 13 homes to be flooded in Seattle’s South Park neighborhood and also forced road closures throughout the Puget Sound region, reported the Seattle Times.
— GigHarborFire (@GigHarborFire) December 27, 2022
Oregon witnessed the highest number of reported power outages in the nation, with more than 160,000 customers affected, according to PowerOutage.
Thousands of customers lost power in the Portland area alone, with a total of 29,069 residents being affected, said Portland General Electric (PGE). About half that number were affected in Washington.
Work crews attempted to restore power, but additional storms brought freezing rain and arctic temperatures, causing delays.
“These winds are blowing debris into our lines, taking down trees and damaging high-voltage transmission lines,” said Dale Goodman, PGE director of utility operations, in a statement.
“The sustained winds make it challenging for crews to safely work in bucket trucks and on high wires,” he said.
Since the beginning of these storms, more than 235,000 customer outages have been restored, according to Puget Sound Energy (PSE), which covers much of Washington state.
Air travel throughout the Pacific Northwest has also been delayed.
Another Storm Rolls In
Dense fog plagued California’s Central Valley early Wednesday as one winter storm left the state and another lined up to enter.
The new storm was expected to move through Northern California late Wednesday and overnight, followed by multiple rounds of precipitation through the rest of the week and into next week, the National Weather Service said.
It is also feared that the heavy rain could trigger flooding and mudslides.
By early Wednesday, the trailing edge of that storm had largely slipped out of Southern California, where the next big storm was predicted to hit on Saturday and extend into Sunday.
“New Year’s Eve celebrations planned for outdoors should include contingency plans,” the Los Angeles-area weather office wrote.
This comes as California deals with its worst drought in centuries, with at least 97 percent of the state under some level of drought, reported Bloomberg.
State Department of Water Resources data, however, shows that drought-stricken California’s mountain snowpack, a third of the state’s water supply, is off to a good start. But experts remain cautious. Last winter had a similar start and then turned extraordinarily dry from January through March.
With reports from The Associated Press.