California is scrambling to recover from the storm before the next one hits

After days of pouring rain, winds and snow, Californians woke up to sunny skies and waterlogged streets on New Year’s Day, rushing to recuperate during a brief intermission ahead of the next rainstorms that are expected to hit the region later this week.

Northern California was hardest hit by an intense “atmospheric river” system that brought flooding and landslides to parts of the West Coast on Saturday.

On Sunday, rescuers were still snatching trapped passengers from submerged vehicles, as swollen rivers and streams poured down the banks. The streets of downtown San Francisco were still dripping after the city nearly broke its record for the most rainfall in a single day. The National Weather Service downtown site recorded 5.46 inches on New Year’s Eve, 0.08 inches less than the 1994 record in more than 170 years of record keeping there – and 46.8% of monthly rainfall.

Sacramento County farmworkers ushered in the new year by repairing a weakened levee system.

Firefighters and rescue crews scoured a rural section of Sacramento County on Sunday afternoon, looking for people who may be trapped in homes and cars.

Rescue teams circled the county’s flooded roads in helicopters and boats, finding vehicles stuck or completely submerged in floodwaters, according to a spokesperson for the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District.

The county has completed about 40 rescues over the course of about 24 hours, according to Dan Quiggle, assistant fire chief of operations for the Cosumnes Fire Department in Sacramento County.

Although the severe damage was not widespread, one person died and several were injured as a result of flooding, with most rescues taking place near the Cosumnes River, Mr Quiggle said.

Several survivors were stuck in their vehicles for hours before being rescued, he said on Sunday.

The storm should move from Salt Lake City to Phoenix, according to National Weather Service forecaster Bob Oravec. The severe storm is expected to bring rain to areas such as Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona.

On Sunday, more than 130,000 utility customers were without power in California, according to, which tracks outages.

The storm also caused power outages in Nevada, with tens of thousands without power in Washoe County.

In Sacramento County, two levees failed near the Cosumnes River in Wilton, an agricultural area. Previous rainstorms had already left the ground oversaturated, according to Matt Robinson, a county spokesman.

“If we had just had this rain event with no previous storms we would have been about OK, levees would have been OK,” he said.

“The water from the breaches in the levees has to go somewhere. It can’t just go and be absorbed into the ground, as usual,” Mr Robinson said.

The levees, which broke in a rural area and flooded a highway, are maintained by an elected council for the area called Reclamation District 800, a type of farmland owners’ association.

Mark Hite, Reclamation District 800 spokesman and board member, said it was too early to properly assess the extent of the storm’s damage.

“We have crews doing repair work on the levees at the moment, but I haven’t seen a flood like this in 20 years,” Mr Hite said.

County officials are hoping the next storm forecast to hit Northern California on Wednesday won’t be as severe. The warmer weather meant rain instead of snow, which made flooding problems worse. Cold weather is expected for the next round of precipitation.

“Hopefully the cold will freeze some of the runoff and give us a chance to catch our breath,” Robinson said.


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