In other words:rain, and lots of it. Enough to force evacuations in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties due to the threat of flash floods and mudslides near wildfire burn scars — and to prompt evacuation warnings, debris flow warnings and flash flood advisories throughout Northern and Central California.
Enough to knock out power for about 148,000 PG&E customers. Enough to start a landslide that shut down a portion of Highway 70 and to stir powerful winds that flipped over two trucks on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.
And enough to cancel hundreds of flights; call off the Ironman California race scheduled in Sacramento; and close numerous roads, ferries, bridge sidewalks and other locations.
The possibly historic storm descended on California just days after Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a statewide drought emergency and begged residents to conserve water — underscoring the whipsawing weather patterns that scientists say are evidence of climate change. Indeed, many of the communities fleeing flash floods on Sunday had fled from flames not long before.
Norm Armstrong, a 64-year-old Santa Cruz resident who evacuated Sunday and during last year’s CZU Lightning Complex Fire: “It is just a regular drill for us now.”
Although the downpour was not expected to reverse the state’s devastating drought, experts say it could put an end to Northern and Central California’s fire season. (Southern California, which only saw a bit of rain over the weekend, is still at risk.) But that won’t erase the damage that’s already been done: Newsom on Friday issued an emergency proclamation to support counties still recovering from recent fires — the same day state parks officials said they will have to remove 10,000 ancient sequoias near the site of the KNP Complex Fire. The trees, weakened by fires, drought, disease and age, risk collapsing onto the nearby highway, officials said.
Southern California, largely spared from the side effects of the bomb cyclone, faced its own challenges over the weekend. A magnitude 3.6 earthquake shook downtown Los Angeles on Sunday morning, and officials said they no longer have an estimate for when the horrible smell that for weeks has plagued Carson — and which some have likened to “rotten flesh sitting in the sun” — will dissipate.
The good news is that popular ski and snowboard resort Mammoth Mountain is set to open on Friday — two weeks ahead of schedule — thanks to the storm unleashing mountains of snow on the Sierra Nevada.