SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Showers drifted across the drought-stricken and fire-scarred landscape of Northern California on Wednesday, trailed by a series of progressively stronger storms that are expected to bring significant rain and snow into next week, forecasters said.
The shift to wet weather comes amid historic dryness that led Gov. Gavin Newsom late Tuesday to expand an emergency drought declaration to the entire state, including major population centers, giving water officials authority to enact mandatory water restrictions.
The National Weather Service said there was high confidence in the forecast for the arrival Sunday of an atmospheric river — a long and wide plume of moisture pulled in from the Pacific Ocean. That storm is also expected to affect Southern California.
Water experts say the big rainmaker won’t be enough to end the drought but it could be enough to lessen some water restrictions imposed on farmers earlier this year.
Precipitation began arriving late Sunday and dropped enough snow in the Sierra Nevada to temporarily shut down highways in high-elevation passes.
The rain and snow also have helped quiet some of the wildfires still burning since summer but in some cases the precipitation also made it difficult to use heavy equipment, according to daily situation reports.
At the KNP Complex fire in Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, the big storm forecast led to an increased emphasis on repairs to prevent damage caused by runoff.
“Without vegetation to naturally slow water movement produced by the storm, flash flooding and heavy debris flow could be possible, bringing logs, limbs, rocks and sediment down slopes, across roads and into streams and culverts,” the KNP update said Wednesday.