A strong storm system bringing heavy rain, mountain snow and hurricane-force wind gusts to much of the drought-parched western United States has left more than 60,000 customers without power as the region braces for more wet, blustery weather in coming days.
Eight Western states are under winter weather alerts as of 3 p.m. PT (6 p.m. ET) Wednesday. Oregon accounts for about 70% of the electricity outages, followed by Washington and California, according to PowerOutage.us.
The region is being inundated by an atmospheric river – a long, narrow region in the atmosphere that can carry moisture thousands of miles – as much of the eastern US recovers from a deadly winter storm that left wide swaths of the country under dangerously cold temperatures.
In the West, an initial round of lashing rain, wind and snow has moved inland and is set to engulf inter-mountain areas Wednesday. While coastal states may experience a brief lull, more rounds of rain and snow are predicted to sweep onshore at the end of the week.
Winds on Tuesday whipped above 100 mph in some cities, reaching Category 2 hurricane levels. A gust of 107 mph was reported in Mount Hood, Oregon, and a 104-mph gust was recorded in North Bonneville, Washington. Wind speeds between 80 and 90 mph were reported Tuesday in several cities, including a gust of 90 mph in Walker, California.
“This unsettled weather pattern is expected to linger into the upcoming weekend as well,” the National Weather Center said.
Several more rounds of moisture will inundate the West this week, bringing temporary relief to a region suffering under prolonged drought conditions.
California’s snowpack could benefit from the storms. The critical source of water that has suffered under severe drought was running more than 150% of normal levels late last week, according to the California Department of Water Resources.
Now, widespread rainfall totals of 2 to 4 inches are expected across the region through Sunday, with isolated areas receiving up to 6 inches. Northern California could see rainfall up to 7 inches, with isolated higher amounts.
The first wave affected parts of Southern California and the Four Corners region, including parts of Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. Low elevation rainfall and high elevation snowfall moved out of California by late Wednesday morning and is expected to remain in the Four Corners area until Thursday.