California storm triggers mudslides, 4 feet of snow in 24 hours

Mark Puleo,
In Sacramento, tents set up for outdoor dining were ripped to pieces by fierce winds on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of @StocktonPolice
In Sacramento, tents set up for outdoor dining were ripped to pieces by fierce winds on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of @StocktonPolice

A record-breaking wildfire season was followed by record-breaking COVID-19 numbers, which left millions of Californians displaced and millions more struggling to get by in 2020.

Less than a month into 2021, those struggles have been multiplied by a barrage of wintry weather, including heavy rain, even heavier snow and powerful winds, which have toppled outdoor restaurants' dining setups.


As of Thursday afternoon, at least 16 mudslides had been recorded by the National Weather Service, seven of which occurred in Monterey. Many of the mudslides have been triggered by loosened soil in burn scar areas left weakened by the active wildfire seasons in recent years.

According to the Monterey County Regional Fire Protection District, 20 to 25 homes and buildings have been destroyed by landslides in the area. About 75 residents were under evacuation orders, according to Deputy Fire Marshall Dorothy Priolo, but numerous emergency rescues were still needed.

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"A few residents in their vehicles had been trapped in a mudslide so they were able to get out but as we discovered in the neighborhoods, some homes, between 20 to 25 residences and outbuildings, had been at least partially damaged by the mudflow," Priolo said, according to KION.


In Salinas, landslides have been triggered by widespread flooding in the River Fire burn scar. The River Fire was one of two giant blazes from 2018 that combined to form the Mendocino Complex Fire, which eventually grew into the single largest recorded wildfire at the time.

On River Road, where the fire began more than two years ago, sliding mud and debris trapped numerous families and required the rescue of more than 50 horses, KSBW reported. Priolo said one woman from the area was being treated for broken bones.

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The blast of wintry weather walloped the region thanks to a stalled atmospheric river "on steroids," as Extreme Meteorologist Reed Timmer called it on Twitter, dumping flood-triggering rain along the coast of California and blanketing inland areas of the state with dizzying snow totals.

At Mammoth Ski Resort, along the east side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, nearly 4 feet of snow fell in the span of 24 hours, boosting the current storm total to a staggering 64-76 inches, according to the resort's website.

Just 30 miles away, the punishing storm has left Yosemite National Park closed for the foreseeable future. The park was initially shuttered last week to address damage caused by powerful winds before this week's storm caused more damage to the area.

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On Thursday, the NWS office in Hanford reported that 32 inches of snow had fallen in one area of the park since Wednesday morning.

Some of the most significant damage came from the hurricane-force winds that topped 100 mph in multiple areas of the state on Wednesday.

In Yosemite, those fierce winds downed two massive sequoias, which reportedly damaged an area that had recently undergone a $40 million renovation. The fallen trees destroyed millions of dollars worth of vehicles, employee homes and other facilities, according to

In Sacramento, those fierce winds ripped outdoor dining setups to pieces, as tents in the North Natomas area proved no match for the winds that topped 60 mph.

Elsewhere in the capital city, downed trees from the strong winds blocked roads.

The mix of wintry destruction left more than 112,000 people without power in the state, according to

AccuWeather senior meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said the worst of the storms may still lie ahead.

"The storm is far from over, and in much of Southern California, the worst of the storm is yet to come. Rain, snow and wind from the storm are forecast to continue across the state into Friday," Sosnowski said. "Meteorologists have been sounding the alarm that the potent storm will bring extreme impacts...Peak winds will continue to top hurricane force" of 74 mph or greater.


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