Massive ‘Atmospheric River’ To Drench California, Western US


Kay Smythe News and Commentary Writer
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An “atmospheric river” began to make landfall on the West Coast of the United States on Thursday, dropping heavy rainfall from Washington state all the way down to central California.

Authorities have set up flood watches in California as rainfall is expected to intensify Friday, reaching as far south as the San Francisco Bay Area, according to Fox Weather. Travel to various parts of the state is already being threatened, particularly to inland areas such as Tahoe, after the National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch on Wednesday warning of 2-3 feet of snow on New Year’s weekend.

“Atmospheric rivers are relatively long, narrow regions in the atmosphere – like rivers in the sky – that transport most of the water vapor outside of the tropics,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “These columns of vapor move with the weather, carrying an amount of water vapor roughly equivalent to the average flow of water at the mouth of the Mississippi River,” NOAA explains.

Washington and Oregon are still recovering from an intense winter storm that swept across the Pacific Northwest and all the way to the East Coast over Christmas. Parts of Seattle were already flooded as of Thursday morning, and at least two fatal car crashes were linked to weather-related tree falls in Oregon. (RELATED: Weather In US To Take A Complete 180 As New Year Approaches)

The river is expected to bring heavier rainfall farther east in Tuscon and Phoenix, Arizona; Denver, Colorado; and Salt Lake City, Utah, Fox Weather noted. Additional storms are expected during the first week of January.