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An “Atmospheric River” Begins to Flood the Western US with Rain and Snow

An “Atmospheric River” Begins to Flood the Western US with Rain and Snow

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LOS ANGELES — As much of the Eastern United States begins to assess the damage caused by a a punishing winter stormparts of the West are bracing for another severe weather event: an “atmospheric river” that forecasters say is likely to bring days of heavy rain and snow.

The “deep and fast-moving” storm system — a channel of wind in the atmosphere that carries water vapor from the tropics — had already begun pounding parts of northwestern California and Oregon on Tuesday. The system was expected to continue for most of the week, delivering excessive rainfall that could cause flash flooding, mudslides and debris flows. said the forecasters.

Rainfall rates can sometimes be as high as an inch per hour, said William Churchill, a forecaster and meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

Although the West often experiences atmospheric storms, what makes this one unusual, he added, is the expected strength and duration. “California as a whole could pretty much use this rainfall,” Mr. Churchill said. “Unfortunately, when too many come out at once, it really causes problems.”

The greatest risk, he added, is in previously burned areas along the coast, where rapid, sustained rainfall could cause mudslides or debris flows.

As of Tuesday evening, about two to six inches of rain had fallen in the hardest-hit areas, and the storm system is expected to sweep the region between the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada, as well as the Central Plains. The system is forecast to bring rain along the West Coast and parts of Central and Southern California into early Wednesday, forecasters said, adding that a few scattered flash floods are possible.

Nearly five million people in the Seattle and Portland, Ore., metropolitan areas were under high wind warnings Tuesday, with sustained winds of up to 30 mph and gusts of up to 60 mph, Mr. Churchill said. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport recorded gusts of more than 50 miles per hour on Tuesday, he added. “That’s the more damaging component,” Mr Churchill said of the wind gusts.

Heavy rain in Portland flooded roads and riversin strong wind felled trees and power lines, power failure. As of Tuesday evening, more than 135,000 customers were without power across Oregon, according to, which tracks power outages. More than 60,000 customers also lost power in California and Washington state, according to the site.

The Bay Area was also hit early Tuesday by the storm, with rain flooding roads across the region. In San Ramon, California, about 35 miles east of San Francisco, wild weather caused a roof to collapse at a Big 5 sporting goods store. local authorities saidadding that surrounding shops were closed for roof inspections.

After a brief lull on Wednesday, the storm is expected to regain speed, hitting a stretch from Central California to the Pacific Northwest with heavy rain and snow at higher elevations. According to Mr Churchill, the weather service forecaster, some regions already drenched on Tuesday could receive up to seven more inches of rain.

The area likely to be hardest hit, he added, is the port city of Eureka, Calif., and the surrounding region. Portland and Seattle are also expected to get about two to three inches of additional rainfall, Mr. Churchill said, adding that parts of Southern California will see rain Saturday and Sunday.

“Unsettled” weather is expected to linger through the weekend, according to the National Weather Service, bringing showers and thunderstorms to parts of east Texas and the lower Mississippi Valley.

However, most of the Central and Eastern United States will finally experience a reprieve from bitterly cold holiday temperatures over the weekend, according to the weather service.

“After a chilly Christmas weekend,” the service said, “the final days of 2022 are forecast to be much more comfortable.”

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