California braces for more flooding as another atmospheric river approaches

California has been facing the brunt of flooding and severe storms over the past several weeks. A levee broke on the Pajaro River over the weekend, forcing the community of Pajaro to take shelter at an evacuation centre in Watsonville on Monday. The levee break late Friday night flooded the community. Drone footage of Monterey County in central California showed brown waters inundating the entire area. Around 200 people have been sheltering at an evacuation centre at the Santa Cruz Fairgrounds by Monday. Now another atmospheric river is threatening them with more deadly flooding, rain, wind and snow. 


Over 30 million people in California were under flood watch on Monday. This includes a major chunk of California, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Fresno and Sacramento. The storm will begin to slam Northern and central California late Monday, while Southern California will face the storm starting Tuesday. The unprecedented flooding led to a levee breach in Monterey County earlier, leading to evacuation alerts for thousands of residents. 

Flooding on the Salinas River could cut off South of San Francisco, parts of Monterey County and Salinas, officials said. People have been advised to take shelter in safe places, Monterey County officials said. The storm also makes the work of fixing the levee in Monterey County that broke off due to the Pajaro River. As much as seven inches of rain has been forecast for higher elevations and up to three inches elsewhere.

What is atmospheric river?

The severe storms this year are being blamed on deadly atmospheric river storm systems. An atmospheric river is a high-altitude current of dense, subtropical moisture flowing into the West Coast from the warm Pacific waters around Hawaii. It is like a band of moisture, carrying saturated air with the force of a fire hose. When it makes landfall, it can cause heavy rains or snow. 

Lake Oroville water level

Last week, Lake Oroville water level rose to about 840 feet following a string of storms, forcing the main spillway at the Oroville Dam to be opened on Friday to manage the flood situation for the first time since 2019. Officials said that Lake Oroville water level has risen by around 180 feet since December. 

Big Sur residents had been earlier told to stock up on essential items for at least a two-week period in anticipation of the storms. The January and February storms Big Sur had led to landslides in the northern region, leading to the closure of state Highway 1 for three weeks. 

(With inputs from agencies)

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