California storms: thousands without power as more wind, rain and snow hit

Storm-battered California got more wind, rain and snow on Saturday, raising flooding concerns, causing power outages and making travel dangerous.

Bands of rain and wind started in the north and spread south, with more storms expected to follow into early next week, the National Weather Service said.

More than 68,000 customers were without electricity on Saturday morning, a number that was cut by more than half during the afternoon, according to

Flood warnings were issued for the region north of San Francisco Bay, including Marin, Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties.

To the south, warnings were posted for counties including San Mateo and Santa Cruz, where the tiny community of Felton Grove along the San Lorenzo River was ordered to evacuate. An evacuation order was also issued for residents of the Wilton area in semi rural south-eastern Sacramento County. Authorities cited the threat of flooding from the Cosumnes River.

An aerial view of the swollen San Lorenzo River area including homes
The swollen San Lorenzo River has forced evacuations in Felton Grove, California. Photograph: David Swanson/Reuters

The swollen Salinas River swamped farmland in Monterey County, and to the east, flood warnings were in effect for Merced County in the agricultural Central Valley, where the governor, Gavin Newsom, visited to take stock of storm problems.

“The reality is that this is just the eighth of what we anticipate will be nine atmospheric rivers – we’re not done,” Newsom said at a briefing with local leaders where he urged people to be vigilant about safety for the next 24 to 48 hours.

“This is happening all across California but I want to say … you guys are disproportionately taking the brunt of it, and if you feel that way you’re right,” Newsom said.

Slick roads, snow and whiteout conditions plagued highways through the Sierra Nevada.

The Central Sierra Snow Lab at UC Berkeley tweeted on Saturday morning that it received 21.3in (54cm) of snow in 24 hours and that its snowpack of about 10ft (3m) was expected to grow several more feet by Monday.

A backcountry avalanche warning was issued for the central Sierra, including the greater Lake Tahoe area.

We have received 21.3″ (54 cm) of #snow in the last 24 hours and it’s still coming down hard out there! The snowpack is DEEP with ~10 feet (3 meters) of snow already on the ground!

We’re expecting another 2-3 feet of snow by Monday morning, so much more to come!#CAwx #CAwater

— UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab (@UCB_CSSL) January 14, 2023

A series of “atmospheric rivers” – long streams of moisture that transport water vapour from the tropics, after warm water evaporates off the Pacific – have dumped rain and snow on California since late December, cutting power to thousands, swamping roads, unleashing debris flows and triggering landslides.

At least 19 storm-related deaths have been reported, and a five-year-old boy remained missing after being swept out of his mother’s car by flood waters in San Luis Obispo County.

Half of the deaths have involved motorists, and some could have been prevented if drivers had heeded road closure signs, said Sean Duryee, acting commissioner of the California highway patrol, during a briefing by state and federal officials on Friday.

Dry days are in next week’s forecast for California starting on Tuesday.

“Question will then become do we stay dry through the end of month?” the San Francisco Bay Area weather office wrote.