As if last week’s bomb cyclone wasn’t enough, an “atmospheric river” began its assault Wednesday on parts of California and Arizona as the late-arriving wet season continued to pound the drought-plagued region with a barrage of water.
Northern and Central California were still in recovery mode from a series of intense storms that began more than a week ago as a bomb cyclone. The storms also dumped 9 inches of rain on parts of Arizona as they triggered weather headaches across the nation.
Now a river in the sky is unleashing heavy rain and high country snow over Southern California and Arizona through the weekend, AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Paul Walker said.
“We’ve had a dip in the jet stream, and it is funneling more moisture than usual across the Pacific and onto the West Coast,” Walker told USA TODAY. “These storms are very focused, and some places will get multiple inches of rain while others remain dry.”
An “atmospheric river” is a plume of tropical moisture in the atmosphere that triggers a narrow swath of heavy rain and/or snow.
“Like rivers in the sky, they can carry an amount of water vapor roughly equivalent to the average flow of water at the mouth of the Mississippi River,” the National Weather Service explained.
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A series of storms rolling through the area Wednesday should ease early Thursday, but another round will slam the region Friday and last through the weekend, Walker said.
About 1-2 inches of rainfall is forecast to fall in about 24 hours ending Thursday over coastal Southern California with one-half inch to 1 inch over the deserts, AccuWeather said. Areas of the San Gabriel Mountains could see 4 inches or more, Walker said.
This is enough rain to cause localized flash flooding, he said.
The second round of storms will hit Northern and Central California over the weekend, but it’s too early to determine where rains will hit and how heavy they will be, Walker said.
In Arizona, the National Weather Service said Phoenix can expect another quarter of an inch to half an inch of rain through Thursday morning. Flagstaff should expect one-half inch of rain in the next few days, said Mark Stanfield, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
Last week, the worst rains slammed parts of the state from Thursday evening through Friday morning. Snow caused freeway closures and power outages in the high country. The areas that saw rain also saw a tragedy.
Nine people — two adults and seven children — in the family’s military-style truck got stuck Friday while attempting to cross a creek. The adults and four children were rescued, but the bodies of two more children were found the next day, and another child remains missing. The search was continuing Wednesday.
“Even that storm was very focused,” Walker said. “Some areas were underwater and some areas got nothing.”
Contributing: Nicole Soto, Arizona Republic
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