Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog

Historic Series of Winter Storms Impacting California, Prompting State of Emergency in 43 Counties


According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency‘s (FEMA) National Watch Center (NWC), evacuation orders and warnings remain in place for over 100,000 residents in California and Nevada, and more than 200,000 energy customers are still without power as heavy rain and flooding are expected to continue throughout the region. Additionally, a Presidential Emergency Declaration is in effect for the State of California, allowing impacted counties to access Direct Federal Assistance quickly. 

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), the ongoing series of atmospheric river events began on February 24 with “one of the strongest storms to ever hit southwest California,” bringing blizzard-like conditions that caused vast power outages, closed roadways, and had officials call for emergency evacuations. Following this, back-to-back storms brought over three feet of snow to some areas of the State. In some cases, the snow trapped residents in their homes and forced emergency rescues. 

In total, California has experienced 11 atmospheric river events this year prompting dangerous conditions, including downed trees, severe flooding, and mudslides. Flood watches, winter storm warnings, high wind warnings, and advisories persist as rain and snow continue to fall in many areas of the State. Currently, there are numerous reports of flooding across Northern California, particularly in Butte County and parts of the Bay Area; while mudslides and rockslides have been reported across both lanes of California State Route 35 north of Stanford.

Officials anticipate that this week’s precipitation totals will be similar to last week’s atmospheric river event, which brought over two inches of rain to most Bay Area cities and upwards of nine inches to some areas in the Santa Cruz mountains, amplifying the already dangerous conditions, including flash flooding and debris flows.

Twitter: California Department of Water Resources (DWR) 

While the latest system is continuing to produce heavy rain, snowfall, high winds, and flash flooding, it is forecasted to taper today, Wednesday, March 15, as drier air enters the region. Moreover, the NWS Weather Prediction Center (WPC) forecasts another atmospheric river event to impact the region between March 21 and 23. Officials are anticipating another round of extreme conditions with the potential for shallow landslides, coastal erosion, and localized and downstream flooding.

Flood Safety: NOAA NWS 

FEMA urges individuals to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves against these violent storms. An essential preparedness measure is to sign up in advance for your community’s emergency alerts and warnings and to pay close attention to local weather reports for real-time conditions. Ready.gov provides information on how to prepare for, survive during, and be safe after various extreme weather events. 

The Hagerty Blog Team will continue providing information and updates on current events and disasters impacting the nation. Visit Disaster Discourse for the latest information.