West Coast Sees ‘Once-in-a-Generation’ Winter Storms
The usually mild West Coast is seeing an unusually snowy winter, with flakes falling from Portland, Oregon to Phoenix.
In California, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for 13 counties Wednesday as back-to-back storms have buried mountain communities.
“This rain and snow bucked the trend and it’s highly unexpected,” meteorologist and former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration top scientist Ryan Maue said, as AP News reported. “It’s like once-in-a-generation.”
California has seen an unusually wet winter, with a flood of atmospheric rivers beginning around New Year’s. Rain in the lowlands means snow in the mountains, and the state’s mountains have seen more than 40 feet this season, The Guardian reported.
The most recent round of storms has piled so much snow on mountain communities that some of them are shut off, AP News reported further, hence the state of emergency. In San Bernardino county, for example, some areas were digging their way out from under seven feet of snow as of Wednesday. The roof of a Goodwin and Sons Market in Crestline collapsed under the weight, and David and Kelli Góra of Big Bear Lake said the snow hanging down from their roof had met the drifts rising up from the ground.
“We’ve been through some big storms… but this is just unreal,” David Góra told AP News. “I’ve never seen anything like it anywhere.”
As of around noon local time on Friday, nearly 45,000 Californias were without power, according to PowerOutage.us. Joshua Tree and Yosemite National Parks are closed, with the latter breaking a 54-year record for daily snowfall, as The Guardian reported.
For California, there is a positive side to all this snowfall, however. Once in the grip of a megadrought, much of Southern and Central California has now emerged, according to Thursday’s update of the U.S. Drought Monitor.
California isn’t the only part of the West experiencing an unusually wintry winter. Portland, Oregon, saw its biggest snowfall so late in the year and the second heaviest overall on Feb. 22 at 10.8 inches, as The Oregonian reported.
“This is a big deal,” Portland National Weather Service meteorologist Tonja Fransen said at the time.
Even Phoenix got a dusting of snow Thursday morning, as AP News reported.
What is the reason for the West Coast snow dump? Meteorologists don’t think La Niña is to blame, but rather a combo of cold air from the Arctic and a Pacific Ocean blockling pattern. As for the climate crisis? It’s difficult to say, but there are links between a warmer atmosphere and more extreme precipitation events.
“Heat produces moisture, moisture produces storms, and heat and moisture bind to produce even more severe storms,” NWS meteorologist Bianca Feldkircher told AP News.