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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Staff and agencies

Thousands evacuated as Californians brace for another storm

Sandbags line the street, as residents recover from major flooding caused by recent winter storms that hit the Central Valley, in Woodlake, California, on 16 March.
Sandbags line the street as residents recover from major flooding caused by recent winter storms that hit the Central Valley, in Woodlake, California, on 16 March. Photograph: Zaydee Sanchez/Reuters

As California communities continued to grapple with the aftermath of storms last week that displaced thousands and destroyed homes and infrastructure, thousands more were ordered to evacuate on Sunday in the agricultural Central Valley.

The lowland communities of Alpaugh and Allensworth were evacuated after officials warned that floods could isolate or trap residents behind impassable roadways. The towns saw recent flooding due to a levee breach, which has been temporarily patched. Residents of Allensworth, the state’s first town to be founded by Black Americans, have been working to revive the local economy after decades of racist neglect had left the area without access to clean water.

The rains are expected to pick up early Tuesday and linger into Wednesday, dousing water-logged central and southern California with several inches of precipitation. Whereas the previous rounds of atmospheric river storms pulled warm moisture from the tropical Pacific, the storm this week is a low pressure system from the Gulf of Alaska and is expected to bring frigid, gusty winds.

Gusts of up to 60 or 70mph could sweep through southern California, and advisories in the Bay Area warn of 50mph winds.

“Dangerous to impossible driving conditions will be possible in high mountains, with still hazardous driving conditions elsewhere due to periods of moderate rain and strong cross winds,” according to the National Weather Service in Los Angeles. High surf and hazardous seas were also expected along the coasts.

The National Weather Service said it is also monitoring coastal California and parts of Arizona for excessive rain.

The state has so far been hit with 11 atmospheric rivers, which have flooded communities, triggered landslides, caused rivers to overflow and trapped mountain residents under deep snow.

In the Central Valley’s Tulare county, the fire chief, Charlie Norman, said more than 11,000 people live in communities affected by mandatory evacuation orders, and about 3,700 live in areas with evacuation warnings.

Up to 2ft of snow is also expected in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and up to 4ft of snow is expected in high-elevation ranges in southern California, bringing a threat of avalanches.

Yosemite national park, which closed last month amid record-breaking snowfall, has reopened for daytime visitors, officials announced this weekend, though several roads within the park will remain closed. The park’s famous waterfalls froze as layers of snow this winter submerged buildings and trapped park rangers in their homes.

The Central Sierra Snow Lab near Lake Tahoe has measured 677in of snow so far this season, the second most on record.

In southern California, parts of the San Bernardino mountains, where a blizzard last month trapped communities and cut them off from emergency aid and medical care for weeks, will also see additional feet of snow this week.

The spate of relentless storms this winter has especially affected farming communities, inundating and contaminating fields and destroying spring harvests. As farm workers, including in the flooded central coast town of Pajaro, grapple with damage to their homes and apartments, many face weeks or months without any work as damaged fields are left fallow.

Officials have also warned communities living near the burn scars of wildfires to stay alert, as these areas are more prone to flooding.

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