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'Atmospheric river' triggers evacuations in Southern California

It's called an "atmospheric river" -- basically ...

Posted: Mar 22, 2018 5:25 AM
Updated: Mar 22, 2018 5:25 AM

It's called an "atmospheric river" -- basically a river in the sky -- that could unleash catastrophic amounts of rain.

And the major storm is barreling right toward the fire-scarred regions of Southern California, with a potential to trigger flash flooding, mudslides and significant debris flow.

The season's strongest storm brings a risk of flash flooding and debris flows in recent burn areas

Evacuations are ordered in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties

The heaviest rainfall is expected Wednesday afternoon through Thursday, and officials have already ordered mandatory evacuations in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties. Up to 1.5 inches of rain have fallen in the burn scar areas since late Tuesday.

"That's a concern when you put in the heaviest rainfall anywhere in the United States and put it right over Southern California, directly over burn scars," CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri said.

"Some of the areas could see 6 inches of rainfall over 36 hours. That's six to eight months of rainfall in 36 hours, right over what would be a significant Thomas Fire burn scar region," he said.

The Thomas Fire, the largest fire in California's modern history, ignited in December and burned about 281,900 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

Santa Barbara County officials have issued a mandatory evacuation order affecting about 30,000 people in extreme and high-risk debris flow areas ahead of the strongest storm of the season in that region. The mandatory evacuation there was effective from noon Tuesday for burn areas near the Thomas, Sherpa and Whittier fires.

The amount of rain and the intensity are enough to cause flooding even without the impact of the recent fires.

"We could experience localized flooding and road closures, which are not isolated to the burn areas. The threat of rock falls, mudslides and debris flow is high," said Rob Lewin, director of the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management.

Mandatory and voluntary evacuations also took effect at noon Tuesday in Ventura County.

Los Angeles County officials ordered evacuations in areas affected by the recent Creek and La Tuna Canyon fires starting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, and warned other residents living in areas affected by recent fires to prepare for evacuations and street closures.

The large and powerful storm system across the eastern Pacific Ocean is expected to bring periods of moderate to heavy rain through late Thursday or early Friday.

Atmospheric rivers are long, narrow channels that transport water vapors outside the tropics. The one that's saturating California is known as the Pineapple Express, because it brings moisture from the tropical Pacific near Hawaii and can wallop the West Coast with rain and snow.

The National Weather Service predicts rainfall rates between a half to three-quarters of an inch per hour, with rain totals of 5 to 10 inches in the foothills and mountains. This total is significantly more than during the January 9 debris flow, when there were 3 to 6 inches of rainfall across the region.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 345344

Reported Deaths: 4084
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah54651678
Washington37724310
Marion35705439
Clackamas28835298
Lane26661291
Jackson22465297
Deschutes19252122
Umatilla14081139
Linn12200114
Douglas11664238
Josephine9174191
Yamhill8438108
Klamath7549106
Polk707380
Malheur542374
Benton521531
Coos481591
Columbia368143
Jefferson355650
Union309944
Lincoln306033
Wasco275839
Crook263643
Clatsop238027
Baker195628
Tillamook191926
Hood River186036
Morrow180223
Curry177019
Harney106424
Grant96512
Lake86910
Wallowa65712
Gilliam1484
Sherman1453
Wheeler941
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 4802761

Reported Deaths: 70456
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles147341026379
Riverside3689534978
San Diego3631694151
San Bernardino3558485562
Orange3224975513
Sacramento1574982273
Santa Clara1443001886
Fresno1437452048
Kern1437161600
Alameda1197741365
San Joaquin1016431696
Ventura1004421162
Contra Costa99102969
Stanislaus849231310
Tulare78753945
San Francisco53974644
San Mateo53781618
Monterey50676582
Solano45734334
Santa Barbara44770518
Merced41680577
Sonoma40638400
Placer38813412
Imperial35591762
Kings32197312
San Luis Obispo29590330
Madera23420281
Butte23298257
Shasta23230334
Santa Cruz20830217
Yolo20092247
Marin17570243
El Dorado16947149
Sutter13762169
Napa12797100
Yuba992780
Tehama9240103
Humboldt9085108
Nevada902590
Mendocino751686
Lassen743743
San Benito735972
Tuolumne671793
Lake6499103
Amador536763
Siskiyou442742
Glenn429930
Calaveras380279
Del Norte355739
Colusa301618
Inyo194239
Mono16285
Plumas15476
Mariposa126215
Trinity85811
Modoc6678
Sierra1710
Unassigned1480
Alpine1020
Out of CA00
Medford
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 70°
Brookings
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 63°
Crater Lake
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 70°
Grants Pass
Partly Cloudy
70° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 33°
Feels Like: 70°
Klamath Falls
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 68°
Big changes later this weekend
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