Californians urged to ‘stay vigilant’ as forecasters warn of 2 new storms

Californians should brace for flooding and possible landslides as “heavy to excessive rainfall” is expected over the weekend and into next week, forecasters warned early Saturday. 

With recovery efforts continuing in parts of the state which was battered by storms earlier this week, the National Weather Service said in a bulletin that a couple of Pacific storm systems were forecast to impact the West this weekend “bringing heavy lower elevation rain, significant mountain snow, and strong winds.”

The first system would approach the coast Saturday and move inland, the bulletin said, adding that there were “multiple slight risks of excessive rainfall,” that could lead to localized instances of “urban and small stream flooding as well as mudslides.”    

“More moderate rainfall will continue into Sunday ahead of a second storm system approaching the coast early Monday morning,” the bulletin said. 

Over 15,000 people were without power in the early hours of Saturday morning, according to poweroutage.us.

The Golden State has been walloped by a series of storms since late December, leaving at least 21 people dead, according to an NBC News tally. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom, and other state and federal officials pleaded with residents to “be vigilant” and avoid complacency as the latest weather systems approached. 

“I know how fatigued you all are,” Newsom said in a speech during a visit Friday to the coastal enclave of Montecito in Santa Barbara County that was evacuated earlier this week. 

“Just maintain a little more vigilance over the course of the next weekend,” he added. 

His visit came on the fifth anniversary of the mudslide that killed 23 people and destroyed more than 100 homes in the upscale community. 

On Saturday, the governor visited Merced County, which was heavily impacted by the storms.

Thanking members of the California National Guard for clearing out a catch basin that was constructed after the mudslide in order to divert rain, Newsom asked people to use “common sense” and obey guidance from law enforcement officials.   

Nancy Ward, the director of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, echoed Newsom’s message and urged people to remain cautious. 

“People will become complacent, but the ground is saturated. It is extremely, extremely dangerous,” Ward told a press briefing. “And that water can continue to rise well after the storms have passed.”

Damage assessments from the recent storms, which have already started, are expected to surpass $1 billion after roofs were blown off homes, cars were submerged and trees uprooted in parts of the state.  In Napa County, motorists were told to avoid Northbound Highway 29 because of the flooding.

In Southern California, authorities determined that a storm-related sewage spill into the Ventura River was much bigger than initially thought. Two Ojai Valley Sanitary District sewer lines damaged on Jan. 9 spilled more 14 million gallons, the Ventura County Environmental Health Division said Thursday. Warning signs have been placed along the river and beaches.

Elsewhere, residents tried to salvage belongings, and rescue crews pulled survivors from beneath collapsed houses Friday in the aftermath of a tornado-spawning storm system that killed at least nine people as it barreled across parts of Georgia and Alabama.

The widespread destruction came into view a day after violent storms flipped mobile homes into the air, sent uprooted trees crashing through buildings, snapped trees and utility poles and derailed a freight train.

Associated Press contributed.

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