The President of the United States, Joe Biden, declared a state of catastrophe in California and Alabama, where new storms are expected this Sunday, after three weeks of unprecedented rainfall that caused at least 19 deaths.
Biden ordered federal aid to help the inhabitants and municipalities of this statein the west of the country, to repair the damage caused since December 27 by violent winter storms, which caused flooding, landslides and mudslides, according to a White House statement.
An impressive wave of rain -and snow in mountain areas- devastated this Saturday many areas of the most populous state in the country, whose already flooded soils are reaching the saturation point.
A new “atmospheric river” is expected to return Monday, meaning a strip of moisture that carries large amounts of water from the tropics. The National Weather Service (NWS) warned that it will bring “new waves of extreme precipitation”.
Power lines were damaged and the fields and roads were totally flooded.
The NWS warned of “disastrous flooding” in the Salinas region, a major agricultural area south of San Francisco.
California Governor Gavin Newsom warned the public that they are still not safe: “It’s not over,” he said Saturday after visiting storm-affected residents.
Newsom urged residents to remain vigilant and continue to apply “common sense over the course of the next 24 to 48 hours.”
order to evacuate
Nearly 26 million Californians remained under a flood watch Saturday night, according to the NWS, and tens of thousands are ordered to evacuate.
As of 08:00 GMT on Sunday, there were more than 16,000 households without power, according to poweroutage.us.
In the Salinas region, a city of 160,000 inhabitants where the river of the same name overflowed its banks, The flooding affected the agricultural sectors of the valley but did not hit the urban areas, an AFP journalist confirmed on Saturday morning.
Under a leaden sky and intermittent rains, the watercourse it got out of hand in some places, flooding hundreds of meters of fields.
In Spreckels, a small community near the river, most residents chose not to evacuate despite warnings from authorities.
“It seems that we have avoided the worst”, said Robert Zagajeski, who was out walking his dog in a light rain. According to experts, the river should be returning to its course from Saturday.
In one of the areas, two tractors armed with pumping equipment returned towards the river the stagnant water accumulated by the rains of the last days, to prevent the soil from completely flooding.
“The region has been hit hard by drought in recent years,” Manuel Paris, a 58-year-old farm worker, told AFP. “It’s been a long time, we are no longer used to seeing so much rain.”
The brief breaks between storms that have hit the area in recent weeks, barely giving authorities time to clean up the rubble or restore power.
a meter of snow
In the mountains, this phenomenon translates into heavy snowfall, with more than one meter forecast over the weekend in the Sierra Nevada, for which the authorities they warn about the risk of avalanches and advise against any movement.
Images released by authorities of a major highway in the Lake Tahoe region show dozens of cars stopped in a snowstorm on Saturday morning.
At least 19 people have died since the start of this series of storms. Drivers have been found trapped in their vehicles by the waves, people injured after falling trees, a couple died in a landslide and bodies have been washed away by floodwaters.
California is used to extreme weather, and winter storms are common.
But scientists say climate change is making these phenomena more ferocious.
While it is wreaking short-term disasters, the rain is badly needed in the American West, where more than two decades of drought have imposed unprecedented restrictions on water use.
However, experts warn that even the monstrous downpours that have hit the region this month they will not reverse more than 20 years of below-average rainfall.
*With information from AFP
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Joe Biden approves the declaration of catastrophe in California and Alabama
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