United States

Parched west now faces deluge

LOS ANGELES • Forecasters expect another 15cm of rain to soak central and northern California and the Sierra Nevada mountains today, on the heels of powerful storms that walloped the state and other parts of the western United States on Sunday.

Drenching rain and snow-flooded rivers led to the closure of roads and triggered mudslide warnings in California, a state that has struggled with drought for years.

Between 7.6cm and 20cm of rain is forecast in the region, while 1m to 2m of snow is likely for higher elevations, said meteorologist Andrew Orrison at the US National Weather Service's Weather Prediction Centre in Maryland.

Heavy snow is expected in Nevada and the northern Rocky Mountains could get a metre or so of snow over the next day or two.

The National Weather Service said that almost 40 rivers or creeks in northern California and western Nevada were flooded or threatened to top their banks. But an emergency agency spokesman said there had been no reports of fatalities or serious damage.

The storm is drawing strength from the interaction between an "atmospheric river", a plume of water vapour flowing from the tropics toward the West Coast, and a low-pressure area near Oregon.

The stormy weather had one high-profile casualty in California: a 45.7m-tall tree that boasted a wide base about 10m in diameter.

The Pioneer's Cabin Tree had an enormous hole carved in its base that was wide enough for a car to drive through. It attracted tourists from around the US because the chamber exposed the trunk's hollowness, giving it a chimney-like appearance and calling to mind the image of an old log cabin.

The sequoia, situated in the Calaveras Big Trees State Park, crashed to the ground at around 2pm on Sunday after being pummelled by the vicious winter storm.

After years of drought, the storm is the latest in a strong wet season for California that began in the autumn. Another front is expected today. In an encouraging sign, the US Forest Service said the rain had restored moisture levels in southern California's vegetation to a seasonal normal for the first time in five years.

The eastern United States experienced low temperatures on Sunday, a day after a massive storm dumped snow from Georgia to Massachusetts.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 10, 2017, with the headline 'Parched west now faces deluge'. Print Edition | Subscribe