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Damage from atmospheric river storms in California


This aerial photograp shows cars and homes engulfed by floodwaters in Pajaro, California on Saturday, March 11, 2023.

Josh Edelson | AFP | Getty Images

Another atmospheric river storm brought strong winds, rainfall and flooding to California this week, prompting levee breaches and mudslides and breaking decades-old rainfall records across the state.

The West Coast is experiencing an unusually wet season following two decades of drought. Nearly a dozen atmospheric rivers have led to higher levels of total snowpack and rainfall in many areas of the state not seen in decades.

Prolonged heavy rainfall has filled creeks and rivers, and the statewide Sierra Nevada snowpack, which comprises about one-third of California’s water supply, is now 178 to 272% of the seasonal average and is on track to become the highest on record by April.

Only about 36% of California now remains in drought, according to data from the U.S. Drought Monitor released on Thursday. Since the storms have eased some water supply shortages, the board of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California recently lifted water restrictions for nearly 7 million people.

Gov. Gavin Newsom this week toured damaged areas in Pajaro in north Monterey County after the community endured flooding from a levee breach along the Pajaro River. The governor noted that widespread damage across the state from the winter storms was an indication of how climate change is triggering worsening weather extremes.

“If anyone has any doubt about Mother Nature and her fury, if anyone has any doubt about what this is all about in terms of what’s happening to the climate and the changes that we are experiencing, come to California,” the governor said during a press conference.

The state’s emergency agency and private weather forecasters in January estimated that damage from California’s winter storms could surpass $1 billion.

The neighborhood at Hillside Estates is flooded after Tuesday nights heavy rains on March 15, 2023 in Woodlake, California.

Gina Ferazzi | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

Watsonville, California March 14, 2023-Stranded cars sit along Salinas Rd. in Pajaro Tuesday after a pair of powerful storms blew through the area causing mass flooding.

Wally Skalij | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

Madisyn Liles holding Luka,1, watches with her husband Keylan as two pumps continue to work throughout the day to remove flood water from their home after Tuesday nights heavy rains on March 15, 2023 in Woodlake, California.

Gina Ferazzi | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

Strawberry fields and roads fill with flood waters as the Salinas River overflows breaking through levies during an atmospheric river storm which is again slamming California in Salinas, California on Tuesday March 14, 2023.

Melina Mara | The Washington Post | Getty Images

An aerial view of almond blossom trees in flood in Earlimart of Tulare County on March 11, 2023 as atmospheric river storms hit California.

Tayfun Coskun | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

This aerial photograp shows vehicles and homes engulfed by floodwaters in Pajaro, California on Saturday, March 11, 2023.

Josh Edelson | AFP | Getty Images

A solo driver had to be rescued from this vehicle stuck in high water at Beach and 58th Streets in Jurupa Valley Wednesday morning, March 15, 2023.

Irfan Khan | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

A home is surrounded by floodwaters from the Pajaro River after days of heavy rain in Pajaro, California, March 15, 2023.

David Swanson | Reuters

Gov. Gavin Newsom holds press conference near Pajaro flooding after he toured damaged areas in Pajaro of Monterey County, California, United States on March 15, 2023 as atmospheric river storms hit California.

Tayfun Coskun | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Patrick Cerruti (R) and his wife Pamela Cerruti take coins out of washing machines inside the flooded Pajaro Coin Laundry on March 14, 2023 in Pajaro, California.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

Angels Hair Salon with a damaged facade sits surrounded by floodwaters from the Pajaro River in Pajaro, California, U.S. March 13, 2023. 

Nathan Frandino | Reuters

Residents checkout the damage after the fast moving and swollen Tulare River crumbled parts of Globe Drive on March 14, 2023 in Springville, California.

Gina Ferazzi | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

An aerial view of four cliff-side, ocean-view apartment buildings that were evacuated and tagged after heavy rains brought on a landslide that left the rear of the buildings in danger of tumbling down the cliff on Buena Vista in San Clemente Wednesday, March 15, 2023. The bluff is still moving officials said.

Allen J. Schaben | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

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