A Pacific storm fueled by tropical moisture battered the California capital with rain over the weekend and may have contributed to at least three deaths in the West, authorities said.
Sacramento seemed to bring out the worst of the winter front atmospheric river — a long, narrow band of moisture drawn from the tropics — with widespread flooding, a key road closure and one death.
Mandatory evacuations were activated Sunday afternoon for residents of the Point Pleasant community south of the city of Sacramento, Sacramento County officials said. They expressed concern that any need for flood rescue in the area would be complicated by darkness after dark.
“Flooding in the area is imminent,” the Sacramento County Office of Emergency Services said in a statement. “Flooding becomes incredibly dangerous after sunset. Please stay out of the area and off the roads while it is still light to reasonably see any danger.”
An estimated 1,600 residents who signed up for cell phone alerts received messages with evacuation orders, county spokeswoman Kim Nava said.
Three levee breaks adjacent to the Cosumnes River have been reported in the community of Wilton since the storm first hit the area on Saturday, contributing to fears of possible flash flooding in those low-lying communities, he said.
The river reached its highest water level ever recorded at 76.22 feet around 11:30 p.m. Saturday, Nava said.
Cell phone video from the area showed several vehicles with water up to their windows and more on Sunday. nbc affiliate K.C.R.A. of Sacramento reported that dozens of motorists have been rescued from vehicles stranded in high water in Sacramento County.
Flash flood warnings remained in effect for several communities south of the capital until further notice, according to the National Weather Service.
On Sunday, first responders discovered a body in a vehicle that was submerged in floodwater on or near Highway 99 at Dillard Road, south of Elk Grove, KCRA reported.
The cause of death and the identity of the deceased were not available, and the Cosumnes Fire Department did not immediately respond to a request for information.
Parts of Highway 99, including a stretch of more than 1 mile south of Elk Grove, have been closed since Saturday night, according to the California Department of Transportation, or Caltrans. The highway was not expected to reopen until Monday afternoon or later, Caltrans said.
On Sunday night, amid several vehicle turns, the California Highway Patrol stopped eastbound traffic on Highway 80 along Donner Summit northwest of Lake Tahoe. Snow clung to the shoulder, but authorities allowed motorists to make the trip without snow chains.
Highway 50 east of Kyburz was reduced to one lane in each direction after rocks struck the road overnight, Caltrans said.
The storm’s effects were felt from the US-Mexico border to northern California, even as it moved east into the Rocky Mountains.
Although the last three years have been the driest on state records, the atmospheric river provided snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains, the state’s natural water store. The National Weather Service said Sunday that almost 10 inches of snow crashed at the Reno-Tahoe airport in Nevada. The facility reported Saturday “heavy snowfall” that was causing flight delays and cancellations.
By the end of Saturday, downtown San Francisco had recorded more than 5 inches of rain, a one-day amount surpassed in the history books only by a deluge in November 1994.
However, nearby Oakland set its single-day record by notching 4.75 inches of rain, the National Weather Service said. The number broke the record set in 1982.
At Lighthouse Field State Beach in Santa Cruz County, about 80 miles south of San Francisco, the body of a 72-year-old man was found Saturday afternoon under a 120-foot fallen cypress tree, park officials said. . The victim’s name was not available.
In Breckenridge, Colorado, on Sunday afternoon, a man and his adult son hiking and skiing in a rural area outside the Breckenridge ski resort boundaries were knocked over by an avalanche, the Breckenridge County Rescue Group said. Summit in a statement.
The father was able to escape and call for help, but when rescuers arrived they found the son dead and buried in the snow, the group said.
Experts said the first week of the new year will bring more wet weather to the west via storms brewing in the Gulf of Alaska and fueled by rainfall from the tropical Pacific.
“Precipitation chances will increase again Monday and Tuesday as a series of Pacific storm systems continue to impact the region,” the National Weather Service said.
“Next Large System Begins Tuesday Night,” NWS Bay Area Meteorologists tweeted.
bryan gal, Rania Soetirto Y Courtney Brogle contributed.