LOS ANGELES – Rain and snow blanketed large swathes of California on Friday, forcing state highway closures and the opening of a major dam for the first time in four years.
President Joe Biden has approved Gov. Gavin Newsom’s request for a state of emergency, prompting federal aid, “tribal and local response” to the state due to ongoing “severe winter storms, flooding, landslides and mudslides,” the California Emergency Management Agency said.
Residents of the Central Coast between Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties and the southern San Joaquin Valley are especially at risk of flooding, National Weather Service meteorologist David Lawrence said.
Even after flooding receded Friday night, the weather is expected to worsen over the weekend and into the coming days.
“Over the weekend, we will see an additional cycle of rain and heavy mountain snow across much of Northern and Central California,” Lawrence Mather told reporters at OES headquarters near Sacramento. “We are also likely to see this weather pattern continue into the first half of next week.”
A week of steady snow left the state’s transportation agency clearing roads last month of 45 million cubic yards of snow, enough to “fill more than 100 rose pots,” said Mike Keever, deputy director of the California Department of Transportation.
The recent storms prompted the state to release water from the main spillway at Lake Oroville Friday afternoon, with snowmelt likely to further raise lake levels in the coming months.
This is the second time water has flowed from a rehabilitated spillway since a disaster in 2017 dramatically changed life in the Golden Country and forced the evacuation of more than 180,000 people.
Some of California’s most popular and well-traveled roads were closed at times Friday due to flooding.
- US Highway 101 southbound could not be used near the state’s Gilroy garlic center.
- State direction 1The road to Hearst Castle in San Simeon was also closed to tourists on Friday due to flooding and rock falls.
- Interstate 580, San Francisco’s major freeway through the East Bay, reopened mid-day.
- A main street in Soquel, a town of about 9,900 residents in Santa Cruz County, was washed out. Evacuation orders were issued in Kernville, northeast of Bakersfield, due to high water on the Kern River.
State officials have warned California residents that any amount of water can be dangerous.
The San Luis Obispo Office of Emergency Services warned Central Coast residents Friday that 6 inches of moving water could easily knock a person off their feet and a foot of water could sweep away a car.
“Remember not to walk, swim or drive through floodwaters and avoid non-essential travel today.” the agency reported.
Department of Transportation officials are urging residents of the state to check the weather before heading out.
The department warned drivers to “be prepared for delays and pack extra food, water, blankets and other necessities, including cell phone chargers.”
At least 10 rivers are expected to exceed flood stage, according to the Nevada River Prediction Center in California on Friday.
Heavy rain and high levels of snow are possible in parts of the state, the weather service said, with warm air expected to bring rain to snowpack up to 8,500 feet associated with the storm.
Severe weather conditions will bring heavy snow to parts of the northern Plains on Friday, as well as parts of the upper Mississippi Valley on Saturday.
Rain is also expected in the mid-Mississippi Valley, with snow expected to reach the Great Lakes by Sunday.
The storm system dumped snow and rain on the Great Lakes, Northeast and Southeast on Friday, with totals of 12 inches in Mequon, Wisconsin, 10 inches in Milwaukee, 9 inches in Woodstock, Illinois and 4 inches around Detroit.
Rain and snow showers will continue to move east of the Great Lakes across the Mid-Atlantic region.
Between 4 inches and 8 inches of snow is possible in western New York and northeastern Pennsylvania.