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Millions at Risk as Atmospheric River Ravages California with Torrential Rain and Hurricane-Force Winds

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California is grappling with the onslaught of a formidable winter storm, powered by a relentless atmospheric river, triggering widespread chaos and prompting a state of emergency. The storm labeled the most potent of the season, has left hundreds of thousands without power, with forecasts warning of treacherous flooding and hurricane-force winds.

The atmospheric river, akin to a sky-born river, is the second to pound the state recently, with meteorologists from AccuWeather estimating that up to 37 million people, constituting 94% of the state’s population, are at risk of life-threatening floods. Southern California, in particular, is expected to bear the brunt of this ferocious storm.

The National Weather Service issued a rare hurricane-force wind warning for the Central Coast, signaling potential wind gusts of up to 92 mph from the Monterey Peninsula to the northern section of San Luis Obispo County. San Francisco bore the initial impact, witnessing flooded and blocked streets, fallen trees, and a hillside landslide. The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am golf tournament in Monterey County faced a postponement due to adverse weather conditions.

The storm’s trajectory is anticipated to move southward, with Los Angeles next in line for downpours, flash floods, and mountain snow. Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for Los Angeles and Orange counties, among eight Southern California counties grappling with the aftermath.

By 6:00 p.m. PST, more than 847,000 homes and businesses were grappling with power outages, predominantly in coastal regions. Wind speeds surpassed 60 mph in parts of the San Francisco Bay Area, escalating to gusts exceeding 80 mph in the mountains, reaching Category 1 hurricane levels.

Evacuation orders and warnings spanned Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Ventura, and Monterey counties, with classes canceled in Santa Barbara County. The Santa Barbara Airport suspended operations due to airfield flooding. Authorities emphasized the historic significance of the storm, urging residents to evacuate and prioritize safety.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Lindsay Horvath issued evacuation appeals for residents in wildfire-prone areas, emphasizing the potential for mudslides. The storm’s relentless intensity prompted Mayor Todd Gloria in San Diego to reissue evacuation orders for flood-prone areas and anticipate significant rainfall.

Southern California schools adjusted operations, with some transitioning to online classes for safety. The Los Angeles Unified School District remained vigilant, planning to reevaluate the situation at 6 a.m. Monday.

The National Weather Service foresees up to 8 inches of rainfall across Southern California’s coastal and valley regions, escalating to 14 inches in foothills and mountains. Flash flood warnings enveloped Los Angeles County, impacting downtown and the Grammy Awards venue. The alerts are in effect until Tuesday, noon.

As the storm maintains its slow pace over California, the saturated terrain from previous atmospheric river systems amplifies the risk of flooding. The NOAA Weather Prediction Center anticipates rainfall between 2-5 inches in coastal areas and up to 6-10 inches in foothills and mountains, posing significant threats of flash floods, debris flows, and mudslides.

In light of this dire situation, California residents, including those in the eye of the storm, are grappling with power outages, evacuation orders, and the constant threat of natural disasters. The Grammys, hosted in Los Angeles, are navigating logistical challenges amid the impending weather onslaught, while the entire state stands united in confronting this unprecedented winter storm.

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