Heavy rains caused flooding and landslides in parts of the Bay Area and Northern California
A historic atmospheric river drenched central and northern California Sunday with record-setting rains. The high-impact event dented the region’s drought and quelled the fire season but triggered flooding and mudslides.
Up to a half-foot of rain fell at low elevations and over a foot in the mountains. Both San Francisco and Sacramento established new rainfall records for October, just after enduring a historic shortage of precipitation.
At the highest elevations of the northern Sierra Nevada, multiple feet of snow fell, a crucial addition to water resources in the drought-plagued region.
Atmospheric rivers are long, narrow swaths of exceptionally moist air, sometimes sourced from the tropics, that can produce excessive amounts of precipitation. This river was rated a level 5 out of 5 in the San Francisco Bay area by the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes in La Jolla, Calif.
The parent “bomb cyclone,” the rapidly intensifying ocean storm that drove the atmospheric river into the West Coast, proved the most intense on record offshore the Pacific Northwest. It had a minimum air pressure reminiscent of Superstorm Sandy in 2012, bringing hurricane-force winds over the open ocean waters and 50 to 80 mph gusts along the coast from Seattle to San Francisco.
Two people were killed near Seattle when a falling tree crushed their car. The combination of wind and rain left up to 170,000 customers without power in California on Sunday; that number had diminished to around 115,000 on Monday morning. More than 150,000 customers lost power around Seattle.
The atmospheric river was winding down in intensity Monday while sinking south toward Southern California, but a look at the long-range pattern suggests the likelihood of continued atmospheric river events in the coming weeks.
Record precipitation and moisture
The atmospheric river drenching the West Coast unleashed record rainfall and moisture that brought deluges and flooding to the rain-starved region. Sacramento ended a record 212-day-long streak last Monday, reversing course and suddenly experiencing its wettest day on record on Sunday — a whopping 5.44 inches of rain fell in 24 hours, equating to what would ordinarily fall in two and a half months.
In downtown San Francisco, 4.02 inches of rain fell Sunday, its wettest October day on record and fourth wettest day of any month in records dating to the 1849 during the Gold Rush.
San Francisco International Airport also recorded 4.02 inches of rain on Sunday, bringing its monthly total to 5.5 inches, or roughly 10 times the average for the month. No measurable rain fell there between April and September.
Just north of San Francisco, in Marin County, several locations in the coastal mountain range saw over a foot of rain. Mt. Tamalpais registered 16.55 inches since Saturday and nearly 27 inches since the middle of last week.
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