BEN CHRISTOPHER • MARCH 10, 2023
If you’re reading this somewhere in California and within sight of a window, this probably won’t come as news: It’s raining. A lot. Again.
With the 10th atmospheric river of the winter now drenching an already sodden state and threatening to melt a historic snowpack across the Sierra, California water regulators have opened the floodgates at major reservoirs, including the biggest one at Lake Oroville.
These releases of excess water would have been unimaginable just a few months ago. Oroville is now three-quarters full with about 2.7 million acre-feet of water. That’s up from less than 1 million in the beginning of December.
But as CalMatters’ water reporter Alastair Bland explains, the choice to tap reservoirs now is part of a delicate balance the state must strike between ensuring there’s enough water stored behind dam walls before the dry months arrive and ensuring that none of the reservoirs overflow.
- Karla Nemeth, director of the Department of Water Resources: “Water management in California is complicated, and it’s made even more complex during these challenging climate conditions where we see swings between very, very dry, very, very wet, back to dry. We’re now back into wet.”
The currently battering the state is likely to make the water storage picture essubtropical storm system pecially swingy as mountain snow begins to melt and then merge into rivers already swollen with rain.
- Rivers in the San Joaquin Valley are forecast to flood this weekend;
- Most of the San Francisco Bay Area faces at least a “moderate risk” of flash flooding;
- The National Weather Service forecast a “high risk” (meaning at least a 70% chance) of rapid-onset flooding across the Big Sur Coast and the Fresno area today;
- The Coast Guard is now air dropping hay to snowed-in and starving cows in northern California.
Rain upon snow raises another threat: “snow loading.”
Earlier this week, the El Dorado County Fire Protection District urged homeowners to clear their roofs of as much snow as possible before the arrival of the atmospheric river to reduce the risk of buckling.
- The district: “The coming rain will rapidly add weight that could trigger failures. Flat roofs, like those on mobile homes, are especially vulnerable.”
In Truckee, the sheer weight of accumulated snow led the school district to cancel classes for two days over concerns about the main building’s structural integrity.
And though the current storm has reserved most of its moisture for Central and Northern California, residents in the San Bernardino Mountains are still recovering from their snowy deluge. At last count, 12 people have died amid roads blocked by snow drifts and power outages.
- Michelle Hake, whose sister died in her Big Bear home: “I don’t think people know how dire it is right now….We are literally trying to find people like my sister, people who are in their homes, and their life is hanging in the balance.”
TELL YOUR FRIENDS ABOUT CITIZENS JOURNAL Help keep us publishing –PLEASE DONATE