LOS ANGELES (AP) — The latest in a three-week series of major winter storms slammed into California on Monday, making travel in the mountains dangerous and the risk of flooding near swollen rivers high, even as the sun came out in some areas.
Heavy snow fell in the Sierra Nevada, and the National Weather Service issued a travel advisory. Interstate 80, a key thoroughfare from the San Francisco Bay Area to the ski resorts of Lake Tahoe, has reopened with network requirements after intermittent weekend closures due to whiteouts.
“If you must travel, be prepared for hazardous travel conditions, significant traffic delays and road closures,” the Sacramento Weather Service said on Twitter.
UC Berkeley’s Central Snow Laboratory reported Monday morning that 49.6 inches (126 cm) of new snow had been recorded since Friday.
An avalanche warning has been issued for the central Sierra, including the greater Tahoe area.
A series of nine atmospheric river storms have pounded California since late December with rain and snow, knocking out power to thousands, swamping roads, toppling trees, unleashing debris flows and triggering landslides. Monday’s system was relatively weak compared to previous storms, but risks of flooding and mudslides remained because the state was so saturated, forecasters said.
The sun rose in San Francisco, where the city’s airport has seen 20.3 inches (51.5 cm) of rain since Oct. 1, when California’s annual rainfall record usually begins. The annual average for the “water year” is 19.6 inches (49.8 cm), “so we’ve exceeded the annual total for another 8 months,” the San Francisco Weather Service tweeted.
Up to 2 inches (5 cm) more rain fell Sunday in the soggy Sacramento Valley, where residents of Wilton and surrounding communities were warned to prepare to evacuate if the Cosum River rises further.
The swollen Salinas River swamped farmland in Monterey County. To the east, flood warnings were in effect for Merced County in the agricultural Central Valley, where Gov. Gavin Newsom visited Saturday.
On Monday, Newsom signed an executive order to further strengthen the state’s response to extreme storms and provide relief to affected communities. President Joe Biden declared a major disaster for the state and ordered federal aid to complement local recovery efforts.
In Southern California, the sun shone in Los Angeles, but winter storm warnings and advisories were still in effect for mountain areas, where mud and mudslides left many roads impassable. The two northbound lanes of Interstate 5 near Castaic in northern Los Angeles County were closed indefinitely after an embankment collapsed.
Downtown Los Angeles set a rainfall record Saturday with 1.82 inches (4.6 cm), the weather service said.
There have been at least 20 storm-related deaths and a 5-year-old boy is missing after being swept from his mother’s car by flash floods in San Luis Obispo County.
Dry days are forecast for California this week starting Tuesday.