A reprieve from the rain is finally in sight for storm-beaten California, where an onslaught of back-to-back atmospheric rivers have ravaged the state for weeks with flooding and mudslides.
Rainfall is winding down across much of California, giving the state a much-needed break from the unrelenting storms that have turned neighborhoods into lakes, crippled highways and forced tens of thousands of evacuations statewide.
At least 20 people have died as a result of the storms, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office said Monday.
It has been a “very difficult time in the state of California,” Lt. Gov Eleni Kounalakis told CNN Monday.
“To go for four years with very little rain to now suddenly in a three-week period, nine atmospheric rivers compressed into just such a short period of time – and this is about a year’s worth of rainfall in a wet year, not a drought year, a wet year, all at once,” Kounalakis said.
Flood watches that covered millions in coastal Central California have expired, but scattered showers are expected Tuesday morning across Southern California, where the soil is saturated and prone to landslides.
The storm system crossing California is advancing farther inland and is expected to bring heavy snowfall into the Four Corners Region. Meanwhile, a weak storm system is expected to hit Northern and Central California Wednesday, but the rain and snowfall are not expected to be significant.
The hazardous conditions the storms conjured in California have highlighted the deadly impacts of floods in the state, with officials saying more people have died in the storms in recent weeks than the number of those lost in wildfires in the past two years.
The 20 storm-related deaths recently recorded across the state include two people found with trees on top of their tents, people whose cars became submerged in floodwater, and a child who was killed when a redwood tree fell on a home.
And rescuers are still searching for 5-year-old Kyle Doan, who was ripped from his mother’s hands by rushing floodwater after their SUV was swept away in San Luis Obispo County on January 9.
Rain and snow will move into the Four Corners Region Tuesday. Particularly heavy snowfall is expected in the higher elevations in the Sierra Nevada, Wasatch, Mogollon Rim and especially the San Juan mountains of southwest Colorado, the National Weather Service said.
As much as 1 to 2 feet of new snowfall is expected in parts of southwest Colorado by Tuesday evening. Meanwhile, rain is in the forecast for the lower elevations in much of the Southwest.
“Snowfall amounts of 6 to 11 inches expected across the plains including the I-25 corridor,” the National Weather Service in Boulder said. “Locally higher totals are possible where heavier snow bands develop.”
The weather service warned of “difficult travel conditions” in the area late Tuesday into Wednesday.
As the storm system advances into the Four Corners region, colder temperatures will sweep in.
Residents of the Great Basin and the Southwest can expect high temperatures through the middle of the week to be as much as 10 to 15 degrees below normal, according to the weather service.
The same storm will bring severe storms and heavy rain to parts of the South Wednesday. A slight risk of severe thunderstorms – level 2 of 5 – has been issued for far east Texas and the lower Mississippi Valley into the Tennessee and lower Ohio Valleys.
The main threats are damaging winds, isolated tornadoes and large hail for areas including Memphis and Jackson, Mississippi.
Meanwhile, a slight risk for excessive rainfall – level 2 of 4 – has also been issued across portions of the lower Arkansas, lower Mississippi, lower Tennessee and lower to middle Ohio River Valleys. The strongest storms could see rainfall rates of 1 inch per hour and isolated totals greater than 4 inches.
A stretch of much-needed dry weather this week will aid crews across California working to reopen roadways and make repairs after the storms left a trail of destruction statewide.
They’ll be tending to crumbled roads and sinkholes and clearing streets blocked rock and mudslides that came barreling down from hillsides.
More than 500 landslides have been reported across California since December 30, according to the California Geological Survey. Many of these landslides happened along the coastal mountains of Central and Southern California.
Multiple highways across the state were still closed Tuesday, according to the California Department of Transportation.
The storms left an estimated $30 million in damages across Monterey County, on California’s Central Coast, according to a preliminary figure released by the county. The amount includes the cost of debris removal and repairs to damaged infrastructure, officials said.
Monterey County, which issued numerous evacuation orders in recent days due to hazards from the storm, likely won’t be the only county to have to deal with costly repairs.
In Ventura County, residents in the remote Matilija Canyon were urged to leave their homes Sunday after more than 17 inches of rain fell in a single day last week.
“Towering piles of rock and mud reach over 40 feet tall in some locations, blocking access to roadways and leaving residents isolated to the canyon,” the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said Sunday.
“It may take up to three weeks to clear a single-lane access road into the community and up to six months to complete required repairs,” the sheriff’s office added.
In the coastal community of Capitola, a storm wiped out a historic wharf.
To the south in the Chatsworth neighborhood of Los Angeles, a sinkhole opened up and swallowed vehicles.
President Joe Biden has approved California’s request for a disaster declaration, freeing up federal aid to help recovery efforts in areas affected by storms, flooding and mudslides since December 27.
The federal aid can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs and loans to help cover property losses for uninsured homes, the White House said.
And Newsom on Monday signed an executive order to further bolster the emergency response to severe winter storms and support impacted communities across the state.