Sacramento, Calif. — Residents of Northern California communities were ordered to evacuate ahead of imminent flooding, and evacuation warnings were in place in rural parts of the region on New Year’s Day after a powerful storm brought rain or heavy snow to much of the state and breached banks. , causing traffic jams and closing major highways.
Even after the storm moved, major flooding occurred in agricultural areas 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of Sacramento, where rivers rose beyond their banks and submerged dozens of cars along state Route 99.
Emergency crews rescued motorists and the highway was closed until Sunday morning on New Year’s Day. Sunday, crews found a man dead inside a submerged vehicle near Route 99, Dan Quigle, deputy fire chief for operations for the Cosumnes Community Service District Fire Department, told The Sacramento Bee.
Sacramento County officials issued an evacuation order late Sunday for residents of the low-lying community of Point Pleasant near Interstate 5, citing imminent and dangerous flooding. Residents in the nearby communities of Glenville Tract and Franklin Pond were told to prepare to evacuate before rising water cut off more roads and made evacuation impossible.
“Flood from the Casumnes River and Mogelumne River is moving southwest toward I-5 and is expected to reach these areas by midnight,” the Sacramento County Office of Emergency Services said on Twitter Sunday afternoon. “Cattle in affected areas should be shifted to higher lands.”
North of the state capital, at least 17,000 customers were without power Sunday as crews cleared downed trees from roads and sidewalks, according to a Sacramento Municipal Utility District online map.
Dozens of drivers were rescued on New Year’s Day on Interstate 80 near Lake Tahoe after cars spun in snow during the blizzard, the California Department of Transportation said. The main road from the San Francisco Bay Area to the mountains was reopened to passenger vehicles with chains early Sunday morning.
“The roads are very slick, so let’s all work together and slow down so we can keep I-80 open,” the California Highway Patrol said on Twitter. Several highways, including State Route 50, were also reopened.
Snow piled up to 4 feet (1.2 meters) in the high Sierra Nevada, and Mammoth Mountain Ski Area said heavy, wet snow would cause major delays in chairlift openings. On Saturday, the resort announced numerous lift closures, citing high winds, low visibility and snow.
A long and wide stream of moisture called an atmospheric river storm is drawn in from the Pacific Ocean. Parts of roads were closed due to flooding and rock slides across the state.
San Francisco recorded 5.46 inches (13.87 cm) of rain on New Year’s Day, the second wettest day on record since the November 1994 flood, the National Weather Service said. Videos on Twitter showed mud-colored water running down San Francisco streets, and a stairwell in Oakland turned into a veritable waterfall by heavy rain.
In Southern California, several people were rescued from flooded cars in San Bernardino and Orange counties. No major injuries were reported.
With the region dry on New Year’s Day and no rain during Monday’s Rose Parade in Pasadena, visitors began to seek their seats for the annual flower display.
Drought-parched California welcomed the rain. The past three years have been the state’s driest — but more rainfall is needed to make a significant difference.
This is the first of several storms expected to roll across the state over the course of a week. Saturday’s system was warm and wet, and storms will be cooler this week, said Hannah Chandler-Cooley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento.
The Sacramento area could see a total of 4 to 5 inches (10 to 13 centimeters) of rain during the week, Chandler-Cooley said.
The National Weather Service’s Los Angeles area office said another round of heavy rain could hit Southern California on Tuesday or Wednesday.