SACRAMENTO — Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a State of Emergency in California on  Wednesday, January 4, 2023, following a third severe winter storm related to an atmospheric river, threatening the entire State. The Executive Department of the State of California released a “Proclamation of A State of Emergency ” stating that conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property exist due to these storms. 

The proclamation outlines emergency relief efforts being authorized to prevent calamity, including enacting the California National Guard to support disaster response, and directing Caltrans to get immediate assistance through the Federal Highway Administration’s Emergency Relief Program, to support highway repairs if needed. The State Operations and Flood Operations Centers have been activated to the highest level, which provide forecasting, reservoir operations coordination, technical support and flood fighting materials, like sandbags, for local agencies.

Winter storms related to atmospheric river systems – or giant rivers of water vapor in the sky with strong winds pushing them along – began hitting California on December 27, 2022. Counties have not had adequate time to mitigate the cascading effect of recent storms. The wet conditions caused by previous storms, on top of the severity of this new storm that arrived in California Wednesday, January 4, is prompting damage concerns. 

We anticipate that this may be one of the most challenging and impactful series of storms to touch down in California in the last five years,” said Nancy Ward, director of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. “If the storm materializes as we anticipate, we could see widespread flooding, mudslides, and power outages in many communities.” 

The atmospheric river is expected to bring wind gusts up to 70 miles per hour, as well as more than 6 inches of rain to the bay area, and 4-6 inches in Sacramento Valley and Southern California. 

The National Weather Service Los Angeles tweeted that a flash flood watch is in effect all over southwest California and areas of most concern of significant flooding include roads, streams, and recent burn areas. Precautionary measures have been taken: Laurel Canyon Boulevard was closed Wednesday morning from 8am to noon for Los Angeles Public Works crews to unload concrete barriers to prevent landslides and keep roadways clear and flood-free.

Los Angeles City Works crew barricading Laurel Canyon.

In northern California, where the major storm is forecasted to hit Wednesday night through Thursday morning, roads and schools have been closed. City officials are providing sandbags to city residents and flood barricades are being built to protect infrastructure.

The Los Angeles Fire Department announced via Twitter that due to severe rain, all LAFD Alerts will be temporarily focused on “significant fire or rescue incidents which require immediate public awareness or action, cause infrastructure impact or a need for evacuation.” The Los Angeles Department of Transportation is asking drivers to take precautionary measures and for all unnecessary travel to cease.