More than 115,000 customers were without power as a system of severe storms brought heavy rain, snow and hurricane-force winds across much of the drought-hit western United States. The area is gearing up for more wet and turbulent weather in the next few days.
All 11 western states have issued winter weather warnings on Wednesday, with gale warnings in effect for the higher elevations of the Rocky Mountains as gusts could reach Category 1 hurricane strength. About 500,000 people are on alert. According to PowerOutage.us, parts of Oregon, Washington and California are already experiencing power outages.
The area is flooded by atmospheric rivers. A long, narrow region in the atmosphere that can carry moisture thousands of miles. As much of the eastern United States recovers from deadly winter storms that have left large swaths of the country under dangerously cold temperatures.
In the west, the first round of heavy rain, wind and snow is set to move inland and engulf mountainous areas on Wednesday.Coastal states could experience a temporary lull on Wednesday. However, more rain and snow are expected to hit the coast over the weekend.
Avalanche warnings were issued in parts of Idaho, Colorado, Montana and California due to strong winds and heavy snowfall.
Winds on Tuesday exceeded 100 mph in some cities, reaching Category 2 hurricane levels. A gust of 107 mph was reported at Mount Hood, Oregon, and a gust of 104 mph was recorded at North Bonneville, Washington. Several cities reported 80 to 90 mph winds on Tuesday, including a 90 mph gust in Walker, Calif.
“This erratic weather pattern is expected to continue into next weekend,” the National Weather Service said.
Several more wet weather storms hit the West this week, bringing temporary relief to regions suffering from prolonged drought conditions.
Snow cover in California can benefit from storms. A critical water source hit by a severe drought was supplying more than 150 percent of her normal water last weekend, according to the California Department of Water Resources.
A total of 2 to 4 inches of widespread precipitation is now expected across the region by Sunday, with up to 6 inches of rain in isolated areas. Northern California can see up to 7 inches of rainfall, and higher amounts are possible.
The first wave has affected the Four Corners region, which includes parts of Southern California and parts of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. Low-altitude rainfall and high-altitude snowfall will move out of California by late Wednesday morning and remain in the Four Corners area through Thursday.
The avalanche warning is in effect because the lower elevations of the west will receive 2 to 8 inches of total snowfall over five days, and can reach as much as 1 foot in some areas. Expect 1-3 feet of snowfall in the higher mountainous areas, and over 3 feet in isolated areas.