ATMOSPHERIC RIVER slams California: While blizzard closes down ski resorts, devastating floods force evacuation in burn areas

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Several ski resorts in the Eastern Sierra and Tahoe remained closed Tuesday because of a blizzard that dropped as much as 9 feet of snow in the biggest storm system so far this season. The season’s strongest storm bombarded Southern California with hours of rainfall, flooding freeways and forcing evacuations in the region’s wildfire burn areas during last weekend.

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Atmospheric river California with heavy rain and snow blizzard. Photo: Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire via AP

The storm is being fueled by a long band of moisture over the Pacific – a so-called atmospheric river – that acts like a conveyor belt carrying rain to the West Coast.

Sierra Blizzard

A winter storm warning remained in effect until 4 p.m. Tuesday for Mono County, home of Mammoth Mountain and June Mountain resorts. Travel will be dangerous. Snowfall rates and winds will create periods of zero visibility.

Ski operations at June Mountain in June Lake remained closed Tuesday, as did all runs at Mammoth Mountain in Mammoth Lakes.

Mammoth had received almost 7 feet of snow and was expecting and 2½ more feet by Tuesday night. June Mountain already had received 9 feet of snow from the storm and was expecting as much as 3 to 10 inches more Tuesday.

Squaw Valley and Alpine resorts in the Tahoe area reported no runs and no lifts open Tuesday.

The main artery to Tahoe, Interstate 80, remained closed Tuesday from Applegate, Calif., to the Nevada line because of white-out conditions for travelers.

Meanwhile at lower elevations

The season’s strongest storm bombarded Southern California with hours of rainfall, flooding freeways and forcing evacuations for parts of Southern California, including burn areas in Ventura, Santa Barbara, Orange, Riverside and Los Angeles counties.

Storm totals are expected to reach 1.5 to 3 inches for the coast and valleys, 4 to 7 inches for mountains and foothills. Expect the heaviest rain along coast-facing mountain slopes. 

As for the winds, damaging gusts are possible through the day. Most areas will be blasted by 40 to 60 mph gusts, but higher elevations might see gusts up to 80 mph. 

The storm — the second of three over just a few days — is coming from the Gulf of Alaska. It’s tapping into a band of moisture known as an atmospheric river stretching from Hawaii to California as a low pressure system parks itself over California.

The American Meteorological Society just announced the creation of a scale that will rank intensity of atmospheric rivers from Categories 1 through 5, similar to the existing scale used for hurricanes.

Hopefully, these meteorologists will be able to better track the storms and determine whether they are beneficial or hazardous to the regions they hit.

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[NBCLosAngeles, LATimes, SacBee, TahoeDailyTribune]

10 COMMENTS

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