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More than 700 000 people lost power, 5 killed as heavy rainfall and strong winds hit California, U.S.

More than 700 000 people lost power as heavy rainfall and strong winds hit California, U.S.

Southern California faces a barrage of extreme weather as record-breaking rainfall, powerful wind gusts, and widespread power outages impact the region. At least 5 people lost their lives. While the torrential downpour provides relief from the long-term drought, it brings additional challenges, including flooding, flight cancellations, and complications for communities in the mountains still recovering from recent snowstorms.

California continues to experience heavy rainfall, trimming down the long-term drought that has plagued the region. Despite this relief, the torrential downpour has caused flooding, with flood advisories and watches remaining in effect on March 22, 2023.

Downtown Los Angeles recorded 36 mm (1.43 inches) of rain on March 21, breaking a 130-year-old record for that day. Higher elevations below the snow level received 100 – 127 mm (4 – 5 inches) of rain. The storm is expected to gradually wind down by the end of March 22.

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High wind gusts have swept across the region, with multiple reports of gusts exceeding 160 km/h (100 mph). Hopper Canyon, near San Bernardino, experienced the highest wind gust at 190 km/h (118 mph). Other locations with wind gusts over 160 km/h (100 mph) include San Guillermo Mountain with 169 km/h (105 mph) and Magic Mountain with 164 km/h (102 mph).

Loma Prieta, south of San Jose, experienced gusts of 143 km/h (89 mph), nearly matching the previous week’s top gust of 156 km/h (97 mph). In Southern Coast and San Diego areas, the highest wind gusts were reported in Boucher Hill at 105 km/h (65 mph) and Harrison Park at 97 km/h (60 mph).

https://twitter.com/NWSBayArea/status/1638297944561684481?s=20

Power outages significantly increased throughout Tuesday, affecting almost 250 000 customers — or about 715 000 people — by 17:00 PDT, a sharp rise from 9 000 outages reported at 08:00 PDT. The Bay Area, which experienced particularly strong winds, accounts for the majority of these outages. Contra Costa County reported 43 812 customers without power, followed by San Mateo County with 42 087, San Francisco County with 34 899, and Santa Clara County with 22 049.

Air travel has been severely disrupted due to gusty storms in San Francisco. San Francisco International Airport reported almost 100 cancellations and hundreds of delays. A ground stop was issued on Tuesday afternoon, lasting until 17:30 PDT, with a ground delay remaining in effect until 00:59 PDT on March 23. The average delay, attributed to high winds, was 253 minutes, or over four hours.

According to the California Highway Patrol, a man operating a sewer truck in Portola Valley, a community in the Bay Area, lost his life after a tree fell on the vehicle.

The San Bernardino Mountains have experienced heavy snowfall in recent months, causing significant challenges for local communities. Lake Arrowhead, California, is still recovering from powerful snowstorms in late February and early March that claimed at least 13 lives and isolated several communities. The AccuWeather WinterCast forecasts a strong likelihood of Lake Arrowhead receiving an additional 102-203 mm (4-8 inches) of snow by 22:00 PDT on March 22, further complicating the situation for residents still grappling with snow-clearing efforts and potential food shortages.

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The highly anomalous low-pressure system that brought hurricane-force wind gusts, heavy rain, and record low sea-level pressure for the month of March across the San Francisco area on Tuesday into early Wednesday will gradually weaken today, the National Weather Service said.

While winds and precipitation are expected to gradually subside and taper off across California today, the expansive outer circulation of the system will continue to penetrate inland across the Southwest, the Four Corners, and central/southern Rockies through the rest of today and tonight. This will bring widespread high winds, heavy rain, and heavy mountain snow to these areas, with dangerous to difficult travel likely. Most mountain ranges are expected to see as much as 30 to 60 cm (1 to 2 feet) of additional snowfall with isolated heavier amounts.

Update

March 23

At least five people died due to falling trees during the storm.

One driver was killed in a work van near Portola Valley in San Mateo County when a eucalyptus tree fell on the vehicle. Another person died in Contra Costa County when a tree fell onto their car. In Oakland, a man was killed when a falling tree crushed him in a tent. The San Francisco mayor’s office confirmed additional two fatalities.

Two more people were critically injured by falling trees in San Francisco, including a police sergeant whose car was hit by a falling tree.

The storm spawned two tornadoes in California, including an EF-1 in Montebello — the strongest tornado to impact the Los Angeles Metro area since March 1983.

References:

1 LIVE: California storm turns deadly as wind damage, flooding rain reports increase – AccuWeather – March 22, 2023

2 Hundreds of thousands without power as another storm slams California – CBS News – March 21, 2023

3 Short Range Forecast Discussion – NWS Weather Prediction Center College Park MD – 425 AM EDT Wed Mar 22 2023

Featured image credit: NOAA/GOES-West, RAMMB/CIRA, The Watchers

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