CARLSBAD, California: Swaths of the US state of California were flooded on Monday and hundreds of thousands of people were without power after a dangerous storm brought heavy rains and prompted a state of emergency.
California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in eight counties with a combined population of more than 20 million people, and flash flood warnings were issued for parts of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.
“This has the potential to be a historic storm, severe winds, thunderstorms, and even brief tornadoes,” Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass told a news conference
Affected areas include Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Santa Barbara.
Nearly 900,000 customers were without power early Monday morning, according to the electricity supply tracker PowerOutage.us.
Dozens of flights in and out of Los Angeles airport were delayed or cancelled, according to flightaware.com.
The National Weather Service had earlier issued a warning that a “strong Pacific storm system would bring impactful and dangerous flooding rains, heavy snow, strong winds, coastal flooding, and high surf to California”.
“Heavy rainfall will bring the threat for life-threatening flash, urban, and river flooding as well as debris flows and mudslides,” said NWS.
The storm is the second Pineapple Express weather system, or atmospheric river storm, to hit the state in the past week and arrived just as Los Angeles welcomed celebrities for the music industry’s Grammy awards, where the red carpet was tented but other attendees were forced to slog through heavy rain in glitzy cocktail attire, some with only a handbag for an umbrella.
The severe conditions prompted the National Weather Service’s (NWS) Bay Area office to issue a rare hurricane-force wind warning for Big Sur and nearby areas.
The rain cancelled the final round of the professional golf tournament at Pebble Beach in Northern California’s Monterey County. Because heavy rain was forecast for Monday, the PGA Tour ended the event after only three days, naming Wyndham Clark the winner.
The San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles County were not only getting drenched but the storm was expected to stall or reverse course over some areas into Tuesday, creating severe risk of flooding and mudslides.
“The Monday evening commute is going to be a complete disaster to say the least. In fact, it’s going to be bad enough that I would recommend everybody stay home in L.A. if we possibly can,” Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California Los Angeles, said in a live-stream on Sunday.
The NWS recorded peak wind gusts of 80 mph (129 kph) or higher in some places.