Atmospheric river sparks rare hurricane-force wind warning in California

A second atmospheric river within days pummeled California over the weekend, prompting a rare “hurricane-force wind warning” in some parts of the state.

The National Weather Service (NWS) issued the warning for the Central Coast of California until early Monday, warning of “hazardous winds and seas.” The San Francisco NWS office is warning of high winds through Monday, with gusts greater than 60 mph possible in some areas.

The highest wind gust on the Central Coast on Sunday was recorded at 102 mph in Pablo Point in Marin County, according to the San Francisco NWS office. At least eight other locations in Marin and Santa Clara counties saw gusts of more than 90 mph on Sunday, according to NWS.

The atmospheric river brought widespread flooding and high winds to the Golden State over the weekend, knocking out power for hundreds of thousands of people. California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) declared a state of emergency for eight counties in southern California on Sunday due to the storm.

More than 554,000 people remain without power in California as of Monday, according to poweroutage.us.

NWS forecasters are warning that life-threatening flash flooding is still possible in southern California on Monday, with heavy snowfall possible in the mountainous region of the state.

“Ongoing showers and thunderstorms will continue to produce very heavy rainfall fueled by the influx of anomalously high moisture, favorable upslope flow, and increasing instability,” the forecast stated.

Ryan Kittell, a meteorologist at NWS’s Los Angeles-area office, warned Sunday that the substantial flooding would likely impact southern California starting late Sunday due to how slow the storm was moving, The Associated Press reported.

“The core of the low pressure system is very deep, and it’s moving very slowly and it’s very close to us. And that’s why we have those very strong winds. And the slow nature of it is really giving us the highest rainfall totals and the flooding risk,” he said at a briefing.

Evacuation orders and warnings were issued for the mountainous and canyon areas of Monterey, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties on Sunday, the AP noted.

California officials have been urging residents to follow guidance from local officials and to prepare for possible damage from the atmospheric river. This type of river is known as a “Pineapple Express” because its tail of moisture stretches back toward Hawaii.

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