A deadly storm that lashed coastal California with hurricane-force winds and torrential rain is far from over.
Now, big cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento are getting walloped by the powerful cyclone.
San Francisco has experienced its wettest 10-day period on record for downtown since 1871, according to a Thursday tweet from the National Weather Service. he area received more than 10 inches of rain between December 26 and Wednesday, the agency said.
About 35 million people, or 90% of the California population, are under a flood watch Thursday. Much of California – which has been marred by drought, wildfires or recent flooding – can barely absorb any more moisture.
And yet another storm this weekend will bring even more rain and wind, threatening to topple trees and power lines from increasingly saturated ground.
Some areas near Malibu got deluged with more than 2 inches of rain in six hours Thursday morning – which “could lead to mudslides, especially over recent burn areas,” CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said.
In the Santa Cruz County town of Capitola, strong waves damaged piers and flooding inundated local businesses.
Rainfall rates exceeding 1 inch per hour are possible – which could exacerbate flooding and cause mudslides in areas still recovering from last weekend’s deadly flooding.
At least two deaths have already been linked to the latest storm.
In Sonoma County, a young child – about age 1 or 2 – was killed Wednesday when a redwood tree fell on a home, Occidental Volunteer Fire Department Chief Ron Lunardi said.
And a 19-year-old woman died Wednesday after crashing her car into a utility pole on a flooded road in Northern California, the Fairfield Police Department said.
The road was partially flooded “due to heavy rain pummeling the area,” Fairfield police said. The driver hit “a patch of standing water and hydroplaned, losing control of the vehicle, before colliding into a utility pole.” Unsafe speed was likely the primary cause of the crash, and the flooded roadway was a contributing factor, police said.
In nearby San Francisco, “floods are inevitable,” Mayor London Breed warned Wednesday. “It’s coming down hard and it’s not letting up any time soon,” she said. “We want people to stay indoors, we want them to stay home.”
The city had already seen some localized flooding, a couple of mudslides and sinkholes as of Wednesday evening, said Mary Ellen Carol, executive director of San Francisco’s Department of Emergency Management.
The low-pressure storm system moved in from the Pacific, bringing damaging winds, excessive rainfall and extremely heavy snow over much of California and into southern Oregon through Thursday.
In central California, wind gusts had already reached hurricane force by Wednesday evening as the storm’s heaviest rain and strongest winds slammed into the Bay Area.
Winds gusts topped 130 mph at Hopper Canyon and Alpine Meadows, and 119 mph in Kirkwood Meadows. Elsewhere in Grapevine Peak, Pulga and Nicasio, wind gusts exceeded 100 mph. And in Oregon’s Squaw Peak, wind gusts reached 106 mph.
“We anticipate this may be the most challenging and impactful series of storms to touch down in California in the last five years,” California Director of Emergency Services Nancy Ward said.