1,500 people were made to evacuate on the wee hours of Saturday from a strawberry farming community in Northern California after the Parejo River levee was breached by flooding after “Atmospheric River”, a meteorological concept that inundated the state flood plains.
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According to Monterrey County officials, this was caused due to the break in the Levee, which was upstream from the community of Pajero, located on the Californian Central Coast. The Levee was said to be 100 feet wide.
First responders of the Californian National Guard rescued 50 people overnight, which was shown on the social media platform. One of the National Guard members helped the driver out of the car trapped by water up the waist.
“We were hoping to avoid and prevent this situation, but the worst-case scenario has arrived with the Pajaro River overtopping and levee breaching at about midnight,” wrote Luis Alejo, chair of the Monterey County board of supervisors, on Twitter. Alejo called the flooding “massive”, saying it has impacted Pajero’s 1,700 residents – many of them Latino farmworkers – and that the damage will take months to repair. (More than 1,500 People Evacuated When California River Breaches Levee _ California _ The Guardian, n.d.)
A similar situation happened in 1995 when the Levees of the Parejo River broke, submerging 2,500 acres of farmland and the community of Pajaro. At that time, two people died, and flooding caused damage of nearly $100 million. A Californian state law passed advanced the state funds of the Levee Project, and it is scheduled to start construction in 2024.
Most Californians had witnessed wet weather conditions with drenching rains and rising water levels.
In parts of Tulare County, the sheriff ordered residents who live near the Tulare River to evacuate. At the same time, similar evacuation warnings were issued to the residents near Poso Creek in Kern County.
The week’s storm marked the state’s 10th Atmospheric River of the winter, bringing a high level of precipitation with surplus snow and rains that has lessened the burden on drought conditions across the state.
Drought season within California prolonged for three years, which caused the state reservoirs to be worryingly low. This has prompted state officials to release water to the dams for flood control assistance to make room for rainwater in the future.
Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom has declared emergencies in 34 counties in recent weeks, and the Biden administration approved a presidential disaster declaration for some on Friday morning, a move that will bring more federal assistance (More than 1,500 People Evacuated When California River Breaches Levee _ California _ The Guardian, n.d.)
Yet another atmospheric river is already in the forecast for early next week. State climatologist Michael Anderson said a third appeared to be taking shape over the Pacific and possibly a fourth. Anderson said that California appeared to be “well on its way to a fourth year of drought” before the early winter series of storms. “We’re in a very different condition now,” he added (More than 1,500 People Evacuated When California River Breaches Levee _ California _ The Guardian, n.d.)
What is Levee?
A levee breach occurs when a section of the levee breaks away, allowing water to flood the land protected by the levee. A breach can be a sudden or gradual failure caused by surface erosion or a levee’s subsurface failure. Levee breaches are frequently associated with levee boils or sand boils (Infrastructure Failure-Levee Failure – NOLA Ready, n.d.).
Californian Floods in Satellite Imagery and Pictures
Many forecasters believe that mountain travel can be difficult considering the Latest Storm. The Storm is predicted to dump heavy snow within the coming days .
What is an Atmospheric River
Atmospheric rivers are relatively long, narrow regions of the atmosphere that transport most of the water vapour outside the tropics. These vapour columns move with the weather, carrying an amount of water vapour roughly equivalent to the average water flow at the Mississippi River’s mouth. When atmospheric rivers make landfall, they frequently release water vapour as rain or snow (What are atmospheric rivers? | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (noaa.gov)).
While atmospheric rivers cause large amounts of rain, which can cause flooding, they also contribute to beneficial increases in the snowpack.
The Pineapple Express is a well-known and powerful one, transporting moisture from the tropical Pacific around Hawaii to the US and Canadian West Coasts.
“Atmospheric rivers are more common on the East Coast than on the West Coast,” according to Jason Cordeira, associate professor of meteorology at Plymouth State University. “They’re just not as powerful and don’t produce as much rain.”
Western Europe, North Africa, New Zealand, and Australia have frequent atmospheric rivers.
While atmospheric rivers differ from rivers of liquid water on the ground, they transport enough water to be called rivers. Studies of atmospheric rivers over the Pacific have revealed that they transport water vapour at a rate 7-15 times that of the Mississippi River’s average daily discharge. They can range in length from hundreds to thousands of miles, and while they are narrow in the context of weather systems, “narrow” can mean up to 300 miles across (Rivers in the Sky_ 6 Facts You Should Know About Atmospheric Rivers U, n.d.).
90% of the water vapour moving towards the poles is concentrated in about 4-5 atmospheric rivers around the world at any given time. This narrow band of flowing water vapour covers less than 10% of the planet’s circumference (Rivers in the Sky_ 6 Facts You Should Know About Atmospheric Rivers U, n.d.).
In places like drought-stricken California, atmospheric river storms can be beneficial—up to 50% of the state’s annual precipitation can come from atmospheric rivers, and atmospheric rivers can bring enough water to an end a drought. According to USGS research, atmospheric river storms broke 33%-74% of West Coast droughts between 1950 and 2010 (the October atmospheric river eased but did not end California’s current drought). On the other hand, high-intensity atmospheric rivers can be as destructive as hurricanes, causing widespread flooding, landslides, and debris flows. (U, n.d., Rivers in the Sky_ 6 Facts You Should Know About Atmospheric Rivers).
(Atmospheric Rivers are also called pineapple express, In this picture, Eastward moving tropical rainfall drives the pacific ocean: Source: NOAA)