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Strong winter storm brings heavy snow and flooding rain to Northern California, U.S.

atmospheric-river-california-rain-flood-snow-january-2021

A potent winter storm is impacting Northern California, bringing flooding rains and heavy mountain snow. Up to 36 cm (14 inches) of snow was recorded in the Tahoe region overnight Thursday, January 28, 2021. More significant snow is forecast through Friday, January 29, with a blizzard warning in effect for the Sierra region.

A major winter storm with an active atmospheric river is flooding California with a "tremendous amount of moisture," according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

The system is also bringing wind gusts above 161 km/h (100 mph) and a rare snowstorm to the northern Sacramento Valley, with snow levels descending below 305 m (1 000 feet).

"If you risk travel over the Sierra passes, you could be stuck in your car for several hours, if not a day," NWS warned as it forecast "whiteout conditions, blowing snow, and near-zero visibility."

A blizzard warning is in effect through Friday morning on both sides of the California-Nevada border. "Road crews and first responders may not be able to rescue you. Stay indoors until the snow and wind subside. Even a short walk could be deadly if you become disoriented," NWS added.

Up to 36 cm (14 inches) of snow fell in the Tahoe region overnight into Thursday, while Sierra-at-Tahoe recorded 25 cm (10 inches) of fresh powder, Heavenly 30 cm (12 inches), Kirkwood 28 cm (11 inches), and Sugar Bowl 23 cm (9 inches). 

The storm prompted flood warnings and threats of mudslides, including in areas previously burned bare by wildfires. About 5 000 people remained under evacuation orders as the threat of flooding persisted in the Santa Cruz mountains.

Warnings remain in effect through Thursday afternoon for parts of Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties, as well as Monterey County and areas of the North Bay.

Several feet of snow is likely for the Sierra Nevada through Friday morning, which may cause more road closures and travel delays.

"Winter Storm Warnings and Winter Weather Advisories blanket the region, along with Blizzard Warnings for parts of the Sierra Nevada where gusty winds will accompany the heavy snow," wrote NWS.

The heavy precipitation is anticipated to diminish by Friday.

Featured image credit: Randy Walker

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