Time is now to reassess flood preparedness before next storm

The calm is here before yet another storm is upon us. After heavy rain and snow ushered in 2017 earlier this week, the National Weather Service (NWS) is forecasting that an additional significant storm is on the horizon for California beginning as early as Tuesday.

“We’re looking at another atmospheric river storm for Tuesday and Wednesday of next week,” said NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologist Michelle Mead. “We have dry/sunny weather from now, Friday, January 13, through Tuesday, January 17. This will be time for high running river and creeks to recede and for the ground to soak up some of the standing water that is around.”

Some areas received heavy precipitation throughout a seven-day observation period. Soda Springs recorded between 21-22 inches of precipitation, followed by Downieville (19-20”), Kyburz (16-17”), Grass Valley (14-15”) and Placerville (9-10”).

Many of the reservoirs throughout the state were also replenished. Just 13 days into the year, there was a gain of 4.3 million-acre feet of the 154 reservoirs tracked by the California Department of Water Resources this month. At this pace, the reservoirs would be at 109 percent of average by the end of the month, an increase from 66 percent at this time last year.

“For drought stricken areas, the story isn’t as rosy as the storms largely missed them,” said Michael Anderson, a state climatologist at the California Department of Water Resources. “The primary reservoir in that area is Lake Cachuma which started the New Year with a storage of 15,900 acre-feet.  Capacity in the reservoir is 205,000 acre-feet.  As of today, the storage is now 17,146 acre-feet which is about a 1,250 acre-foot gain.”

For comparison, the Oroville Reservoir in the Feather River watershed in Northern California has more than 750,000 acre-foot gain, essentially assisting in recovering all of the spent storage throughout the drought.

Most creeks and streams will recede back into their banks during this dry period, but will still be running high and fast through the holiday weekend. Although the water is receding, stay clear of the creeks and streams, and also continue to be aware if there is water covering roadways, the NWS warned.

“This dry spell is a perfect opportunity for folks living in high flood threat areas to assess their situation, and make arrangements, or mitigate any levee issues on their property,” Mead said.

Because the majority of Northern California and parts of Central and Southern California are already saturated from the recent storm, more flooding with the impending system is a concern. The next storm will be another warm atmospheric river, similar to what impacted the state last week, but the exact amounts are still uncertain.

Still, the impacts could be felt statewide, according to Mead:

  • High snow levels, at or above pass levels, so there will be rain on snow in the mountains.
  • Rivers, creeks and streams have lowered, however, they are higher than they were a week ago. Therefore, they have to potential to rise out of their banks faster with this next round of storms.
  • Steady rain for 24-36 hours between Wednesday-Thursday for Interior Northern California. Heaviest Wednesday night, with snow levels lowering during the day Thursday
  • Longer duration for the northern California coast and along the Oregon/California border

Prepare for the next storm with helpful tips from our detailed Cal OES Winter Storms page.


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National Weather Service

Jonathan Gudel

Jonathan Gudel is a Public Information Officer for the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES). Since joining Cal OES, he has assisted in the response and recovery efforts of the Aliso Canyon Gas Leak, the state's historic drought, the Oroville Dam Emergency Spillway Incident, unprecedented winter storms in 2017, the October (Sonoma County) and December (Santa Barbara County) 2017 wildfires, and statewide wildfire siege in 2018 . Previously, he worked in the newspaper industry for 12 years.

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