SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released infrared satellite imagery illustrating how Tuesday’s atmospheric river is moving over the San Francisco Bay Area and Central Coast.
Tuesday’s storm is the 11th atmospheric river that’s unleashed drenching downpours, blankets of snow, and whipping winds across California.
NOAA’s infrared satellite imagery shows the storm rapidly sweeping across California well into Tuesday afternoon. This atmospheric river, also known as a “Pineapple Express,” can be seen from space as a band of moisture stretching from Hawaii across the Pacific Ocean to California.
National Weather Service forecasters are calling the storm a “significant atmospheric river event” that will continue through Wednesday. Rain is falling on fully saturated ground that was already soaked from last weekend’s system.
The impact of the new storm will likely “eclipse and exceed the previous one, with potentially large-scale and long-lasting flooding impacts,” the NWS Bay Area wrote.
California’s latest atmospheric river will generate so much snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains that 2023 will become the “second snowiest” year on record, according to PG&E’s meteorologists.
“A strong atmospheric river is hitting PG&E’s service area today. With already saturated ground and flowing rivers and streams, the heavy rain is leading to flooding in some areas. According to PG&E’s meteorologists, 2023 has been the third snowiest year on record in our service area and this storm is expected to move that to second snowiest. In some locations, more than 600 inches of snow have fallen,” PG&E officials wrote.
Emergency officials across the Bay Area and Central Coast are closely monitoring rivers and creeks as water levels rise close to flood stages.
NWS officials wrote, “Motorists should not attempt to drive around barricades or drive cars through flooded areas. Most flood deaths occur in vehicles.”
The community of Pajaro on the Santa Cruz – Monterey county line was already underwater even before Tuesday’s storm arrived before dawn. Thousands of residents remain evacuated, and a more populated neighboring city, Watsonville, is facing a threat of potential flooding. Water from the Pajaro River poured into Pajaro Saturday because a 300-foot-wide section of the river’s level failed.
A Flood Warning is currently in effect for the Pajaro River, impacting Monterey, San Benito, Santa Cruz, and Santa Clara counties, the National Weather Service said. “Pajaro (River) may overtop at 29.5 feet (and) parts of State Highway 129 between U.S. Highway 101 and Watsonville will flood. The entire Pajaro River will have moderate bank erosion.”
The Pajaro River rose to 18.7 feet by 8:30 a.m. Tuesday and will continue to rise this afternoon. The river will crest at 25.5 feet on Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service. The river’s flood stage is 32 feet.