SACRAMENTO — Coast redwoods crashed through the ceiling in Nicole Valentine’s bedroom while she was away at a party, trying to ignore powerful storms that were lashing Northern California with fierce winds and rain. On the phone, his neighbor was almost inconsolable.
“He’s like, ‘A tree just fell on your house! I smell gas! I called 911!'” said Ms. Valentine, a mother of two and an attorney in Sacramento. “I said, ‘Wait. – what?’ Thankfully there was no one at home other than our labradoodle Charlie. My husband immediately ran home.
In the days following that call on New Year’s Eve, cumulative storms have battered California — and Ms. Valentine and her family huddle in an Airbnb with Charlie, who escaped unharmed. As they attempt to schedule insurance adjusters, versions of their horrifying experience spread through the nation’s most populous state.
Harassed by drought, scorched by wind and roots weakened by incessant rain and flooding, trees — tall and short, ancient and young, in mountain preserves and suburban yards — have fallen across California in breathtaking numbers this week, which The most visible sign is A state between environmental extremes.
A procession of atmospheric rivers has interrupted an epic drought responsible for three of the driest years on California record. The sudden swing from deficit to excess with back-to-back storms is testing the state’s infrastructure widely, straining power grids, levees, drainage systems and roads from the Pacific Coast to the Sierra Nevada.
On Thursday, the pressure mounted as rain caused rivers to swell and snowy whitewash covered the mountain passes. In San Francisco, systemic disruptions on Bay Area Rapid Transit caused train delays. In Santa Cruz County, a tidal surge blew away parts of piers and forced the city of Santa Cruz to close its pier as a safety measure. In Southern California, massive waves threatened lifeguard towers in Los Angeles County and flooded the Pacific Coast Highway in Huntington Beach as rain moved south.
By Friday morning, thousands of customers, mostly in Northern California, were still powerless Prepare for another round of drenching rain as communities. National Weather Service forecasters in the Bay Area said next atmospheric river It was expected to arrive late Friday and spread south into central California on Saturday, raising the risk of more flooding and landslides in the northern part of the state. far inland and around the sacramento areaConditions were expected to be equally dangerous.
If there was a theme to the storm, it was in the uprooted and broken trees that seemed to cover the rain-soaked landscape—a loss and a danger that Carla Nemeth, director of the state Department of Water Resources, warned, signature” of this particular event.
falling trees slammed into power lines on the Central Coast, turn off highway 101 More Snooze in Humboldt County rail service in Burlingame and San Francisco. they California Highway Patrol officer injured at a crash site in San Jose and stranded cars Rain-soaked roads in Marin County. On Wednesday, fire officials said, a redwood in the Sonoma County community of Occidental Crashed into a mobile home, killing a child,
In Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood, a tree crashed Wednesday into a public housing apartment where Victoria James lives with her adult daughter, her two young children and her 3-year-old granddaughter. “Everything shook and went black,” Ms James said. “I thought it was an earthquake.”
When he saw branches coming out of his roof and more limbs falling, he said, he grabbed the kids and started running.
“There were live wires everywhere,” she said. “My neighbors had to direct us because it was pitch black out. We just left with what we had. Literally ran – one kid didn’t even have tennis shoes on.
In Sacramento, which calls itself the “City of Trees,” atmospheric rivers claimed nearly 1,000 trees in six days, according to the city’s urban forester, Kevin Hawker, who called the toll “much higher than I’ve seen in other storms.” ” Told. , He estimated that 60 fell in one city park alone.
On the State Capitol grounds, a giant sequoia was uprooted Thursday, felled by the storm and surrounded by dangerous tapes and scattered driftwood of branches; Its fall debarked one side of a nearby Torrey pine. Paula Pepper, a retired US Forest Service urban ecologist in Sacramento, estimated that the giant sequoia stood for 80 to 100 years, through 18 governorates.
At Sacramento City College, a fallen cedar, towering and rotting, blocked the entrance to the campus. In a well-maintained neighborhood near the American River, Marco Leyva, a local landscaper, scrambles to retrieve fallen tree limbs, his truck piled high with redwood, oak and liquid amber. Some, he said, had been run over in a New Year’s Eve storm, “and then this time the wind knocked them down.”
At a news conference, Ms. Nemeth, the state water resources director, blamed the horticulture devastation on violent weather as well as drought. “We are moving from extreme drought to extreme flood,” she said. “What this means is, a lot of our trees are stressed.”
At the same time, weather systems shifted by climate change have increased wind and precipitation, said Jeffrey Mount, a senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California’s Water Policy Center. Dr Mount said last weekend’s storm was very wet – essentially, an atmospheric fire hose hanging over California – but this week’s “bomb cyclone” storm brought more wind.
Scientists say the one-two punch of over-saturated soil and strong winds have made it difficult for trees to stay upright.
“It’s no surprise when we start getting these 50- to 70-mile-per-hour gusts that these big, old trees that are stressed and have their feet essentially planted in the soil at this point are gone — they fall,” Dr. Mount said. “A surprising number of these big trees go up in these big storms.”
Emily Griswold, director of horticulture and teaching gardens at the University of California, Davis Arboretum, said the swings between extreme climates have made even healthy trees more vulnerable. On New Year’s Eve, some 15 thriving trees at the plantation were uprooted—including a “beautiful, healthy” Guadalupe Island cypress planted in 1936.
He and his colleagues research which trees and plants will be best at helping shade cities and which ones will be able to thrive in a rapidly changing California.
Much of his research so far has focused on extreme heat and drought. But recent storms have shown those inquiries must expand, she said.
“It’s like heat, drought, flood – hell or high water,” Ms Griswold said. “We’re definitely looking at what fails, why it failed, what can we learn from it, and how can we plant more intelligently in the future?”
Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, said thousands of downed trees were among the state’s biggest challenges in managing public safety in this storm system. Not only do falling trees threaten buildings and power lines, but falling near waterways can also damage embankments, where branches and debris can be pushed downstream, he said.
The new climate reality, he said, means that disasters are intertwined and compound one another: Drought worsens and fire seasons lengthen. Global warming intensifies heat waves. Rain that can no longer fall as a deluge as snow lands, and flora and fauna are under stress to survive the ecological disruption.
Mr Ferguson said the current disasters, and the living things that endure them, underscore the reality that “we are one planet.”
“I’m not a scientist, just a dad with two eyes and one brain, but it’s so clear that the world is changing around us,” he said.
holy second And Derrick Bryson Taylor Contributed reporting.
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