California braces for another powerful storm threatening floods and mudslides

By Maria Caspani

(Reuters) – Storm-battered California braced for another deluge on Sunday as forecasters predicted heavy rainfall would douse parts of the state, threatening floods and mudslides.

The storm is the second Pineapple Express weather system, or atmospheric river storm, to hit the state in the past week and arrives as Los Angeles welcomes scores of celebrities for the music industry’s glitzy Grammy awards.

Long Beach could get more rain this week than it does during an entire year, said Mayor Rex Richardson, who is expecting 5-7 inches (13-18 cm) starting Sunday through Tuesday.

Los Angeles could get hit with as much wind and rain as what Tropical Storm Hilary brought in August, Mayor Karen Bass said.

California’s southern and central coasts are bracing for an inch of rain an hour and totals of 3-6 inches (7-15 cm), the U.S. National Weather Service said. As much as 6-12 inches are expected in the foothills and lower-elevation mountains.

“This heavy rainfall will bring the threat for life-threatening flash, urban, and river flooding as well as debris flows and mudslides,” the NWS said in a bulletin released on Sunday.

The weather agency designated areas including Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties as high risk for excessive rainfall both Sunday and Monday, forecasting “near continuous rainfall” for the next 48 hours.

With soils already saturated and streams running high, the flood potential from the coming onslaught is even higher than it would be otherwise, forecasters said.

Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties issued evacuation orders for some of its residents due to the risk of life-threatening floods from the storm. Mandatory evacuations were in effect in the San Jose region and in parts of Ventura County.

Rain will turn into heavy snow at higher elevations in the mountain ranges of northern California and the Sierra Nevada, with total accumulation of several feet forecast for the Sierra region through Tuesday, and snow rates of 2-3 inches per hour the NWS said.

The storm is expected to bring strong, dangerous winds, with the San Francisco Bay Area office of the NWS forecasting hurricane-force gusts that could down trees and damage power lines.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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