5 People Die As Atmospheric River Hits Western US With Rain And Snow: Parts of the West are currently experiencing another severe weather phenomenon, an “atmospheric river,” which forecasts warn is likely to deliver days of heavy rain and snow. This is happening as most of the Eastern United States starts to assess the damage caused by a destructive winter storm.
On Tuesday, a “deep and fast-moving” storm system that transports water vapor from the tropics battered sections of Oregon and northwest California, killing five people in three car accidents involving downed trees, according to Oregon authorities. Forecasters said the system was likely to persist throughout the week, bringing with it an abundance of rain that might result in debris flows, mudslides, and flash flooding.
William Churchill, a forecaster, and meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland, said that the rate of rainfall might occasionally reach up to an inch per hour.
He said that although atmospheric storms frequently occur in the West, this one was special because of the projected power and endurance. The majority of California could use this precipitation, according to Mr. Churchill. Unfortunately, issues might arise when too much happens at once.
Parts 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.https://t.co/UMh6oXgoKP #Westcoast #Northwest
— Weather (@Mystartweather) December 28, 2022
The places near the coast that had previously burned posed the biggest risk for mudslides or debris flows, he continued.
According to Mr. Churchill, three to six inches of rain had already fallen in the hardest-hit areas as of Wednesday afternoon.
The Central Plains and the area between the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada were both predicted to be affected by the storm system. Rain fell into early Wednesday in sections of the West Coast, Central California, and Southern California.
Forecasters predicted that another system will arrive on Thursday, bringing more rain to the Pacific Northwest southward to central California. They also predicted that this “uncertain weather pattern” would probably last until the weekend.
Tuesday saw persistent winds of up to 30 miles per hour and gusts of up to 60 miles per hour in the Seattle and Portland, Oregon, metro regions, which affected close to five million people, according to Mr. Churchill. He noted that on Tuesday, gusts of wind more than 50 miles per hour were measured at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The wind gusts, according to Mr. Churchill, “are the more harmful component.”
In Portland, the torrential downpour inundated roads and waterways, while strong winds downed trees and power lines, cutting off the city’s electricity supply. According to PowerOutage.us, which keeps track of power outages, some 50,000 customers were without power in Oregon as of Wednesday afternoon. According to the website, 25,000 consumers were without power in California and Washington State.
According to the Oregon State Police, Highway 26 alone had two deadly incidents as a result of the bad weather. A “big diameter tree” crashed onto the roof of a car traveling eastbound on Highway 26 at around 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, killing the driver, Justin Nolasco Pedraza, 19, and two passengers, Bonifacio Olvera Nolasco, 41, and a 4-year-old boy. First responders “found deceased” all three people, according to the authorities.
A few hours later, the 53-year-old driver of the truck, James Darron Lyda, was murdered when a tree fell and hit the cab of the vehicle. According to the police, emergency officials pronounced him deceased at the site.
In a third incident, a tree fell onto the passenger side of a U-Haul dolly trailer on Interstate 84 at around 2:00 p.m. The 20-year-old passenger, Paula Chamu Sanchez, was killed in the collision, according to the police.
The storm hit the Bay Area hard as well early on Tuesday, flooding roads all throughout the area with rain. Local officials in San Ramon, California, some 35 miles east of San Francisco, reported that the wild weather was to blame for a Big 5 Sporting Goods store’s collapsed roof. They added that the other businesses had closed for roof inspections.
Other areas of the Bay Area experienced road closures as a result of trees and electricity lines being downed by strong winds, according to local authorities. Due to floods, a lane on a portion of U.S. 101, a significant interstate highway, was also closed, resulting in delays.
The storm is anticipated to pick up steam after a brief break on Wednesday and pound a region from Central California to the Pacific Northwest with heavy rain and snow at higher elevations. The forecaster for the Weather Service, Mr. Churchill, said that certain areas that were already saturated on Tuesday may receive up to seven more inches of rain.
He noted that the port city of Eureka, California, and its surrounding area were likely to be the hardest damaged. Additionally, Mr. Churchill predicted that Portland and Seattle will get two to three inches of rain and that Saturday and Sunday would bring rain to certain areas of Southern California.
The National Weather Service predicts that while the weather system persists through the weekend, it will bring showers and thunderstorms to sections of eastern Texas and the lower Mississippi Valley.
However, according to the Weather Service, the majority of the Central and Eastern United States will finally get a break from the severely cold holiday weekend temps.
The weather service noted that “the closing days of 2022 are anticipated to be much more comfortable” after “a bone cold Christmas weekend.”