‘Atmospheric river’ brings rain, flooding to California ahead of heavier storms

An ‘atmospheric river’ caused a massive downpour in parts of California on Thursday, bringing flooding and felling trees.

Heavier storms, bringing rain, snow and dangerously high winds, are expected in the coming days.

The storm is what’s known as a pineapple express, “a strong atmospheric river that is capable of bringing moisture from the tropics near Hawaii over to the U.S. West Coast,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Mandy Garrett and Joe Garnett remove items from the flooded Devynn's Garden on Marina Drive, just south of Pacific Coast Highway, Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024, in Seal Beach, Calif. (Jeff Gritchen/The Orange County Register via AP)
Mandy Garrett and Joe Garnett remove items from the flooded Devynn’s Garden on Marina Drive, just south of Pacific Coast Highway, on Thursday in Seal Beach, Calif. (Jeff Gritchen/The Orange County Register via AP)

The storm made landfall earlier Thursday in the San Francisco Bay Area, marked by heavy rain and winds. It moved south, drenching Los Angeles during the morning commute and causing flooding.

The storm proceeded to blow and crack its cheeks on southern California, all the way down to San Diego. Parts of Los Angeles County were hit with flash flooding, submerging cars on low-lying roads. Sections of the Pacific Coast Highway were temporarily closed on Thursday.

The Orange County Fire Authority said two rescues were made in rushing waters.

Many parts of central and southern California remain under flood alerts until at least Friday morning.

A car drives through a flooded parking lot in Huntington Beach, Calif., Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Eric Thayer)
A car drives through a flooded parking lot in Huntington Beach, Calif., on Thursday. (AP Photo/Eric Thayer)

After a short lull in the storm, a second atmospheric river is expected to batter the region starting on Sunday, with several parts of the state forecasted to receive 10 or more inches of precipitation in the coming days.

The second atmospheric river could become the “largest storm of the season,” the National Weather Service in Los Angeles warned.

“It is very likely that this will be a serious 2 to 3 day storm system,” it stated.

In northern California, snow is expected. Up to 4 feet could hit the highest peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

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