SALINAS, UNITED STATES: The latest in a string of destructive storms hit California on Saturday, bringing major flooding to previously flooded areas and threatening snowfalls of up to six feet (two meters) in certain areas.
The National Weather Service (NWS) predicted “severe lower-elevation rain, considerable mountain snow, and high winds” with “another rush of Pacific moisture” likely Monday.
It foresaw “disastrous floods” in the lower Salinas River basin, a key agricultural zone south of San Francisco Bay.
Even as the rain persisted under leaden skies, an AFP writer witnessed the Salinas River overtopping its banks in numerous places, at times covering farm fields for hundreds of yards.
According to the NWS, over 26 million Californians were still under a flood watch Saturday evening, with tens of thousands forced to evacuate.
Storms in recent weeks were first welcomed following years of drought, but have now caused “disastrous” floods, officials warn. According to poweroutage.us, around 20,000 houses were without power at 2330 GMT. At least 19 persons have perished as a result of storm-related causes.
An additional two to three inches of rain (5.0 to 7.5 cm) could trigger further flooding and mudslides, according to the NWS, with sections of the Sierra Nevada receiving three to six feet of snow and high winds gusting up to 50 miles (80 kilometers) per hour.
“This area has been severely impacted by the drought in recent years,” 58-year-old farmworker Manuel Paris told AFP near Salinas. “This much rain is unusual for us.”