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‘State of Panic’ Over ‘Atmospheric River’ as Storm Slams CA

California is enduring what officials warn is the most powerful storm in a decade to hit Northern California, and what a member of an El Dorado County Sheriff’s representative said is inducing a “state of panic” among the public.

The “atmospheric river” brings with it predictions for heavy rains and snow for several days. The Los Angeles Times reported that the precipitation could bring flooding, mudslides and avalanches. Up to 12 inches of rain could fall below 8,500 feet while elevations above that mark could see snow reaching seven feet before the storm is over. A similar storm in 2005 levied $300 million in damage.

A large swath of northern California wa slated for possible flash flooding and heavy snow according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from Saturday through Monday.

Surrounded by snow, South Lake Tahoe Mayor Austin Sass urged residents, “Do not go out on Sunday and Monday if you can avoid it”:

Caltrans maintenance manager Greg Miller warned specifically of rain over snow, according to the Times. Caltrans road crews have been working long hours, taking preventative measures against rockslides and avalanches along roadways. El Dorado County Sheriff’s Sgt. Todd Hammitt characterized public anticipation of the storm as a “state of panic,” leading to many calls and “…general pandemonium of not knowing what’s coming.”

While the region could see 36 straight hours of rain, officials have warned against hopes that this may quench California’s deep and long-running drought.

Mammoth Mountain reported 8 inches of snow in 24 hours and 18 inches in the past 72 hours as of Saturday evening. Portions of U.S. 395 required chains on all vehicles except 4-wheel drive vehicles equipped with snow tires. Portions of California 203, SR 120, SR 108 and SR 158 were closed on Saturday. Rain is forecast for Sunday, but freezing temperatures are scheduled to return along with snow on Monday and Tuesday.

The massive storm was expected to grow even stronger on Sunday, according to the Mercury News. San Francisco is expected to experience up to 4 inches of rain through Monday and San Jose as much as 3 inches. The report notes that these levels amount to 25 percent of the respective cities’ annual rainfall.

Yosemite National Park visitors were evacuated from Yosemite Valley ahead of the weekend storm, according to the Mercury News and roads into the valley have been closed.

Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana 

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