Severe winter weather has caused multiple deaths in California.
California authorities have discovered 13 bodies in the wake of winter storms that have blanketed a large portion of the state in snow.
California Governor Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency on March 1 for 13 counties due to severe winter conditions.
A large portion of emergency relief personnel was sent to San Bernardino County, where the snow had impeded road travel into the mountains, leaving many residents without supplies and power, according to KTLA.
San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Mara Rodriguez said that so far, only one of these deaths, resulting from a traffic accident, could be attributed directly to the weather.
“The preliminary information in the other deaths does not indicate they are weather-related, but those investigations are ongoing,” said Rodriguez, according to KRON4.
Megan Vazquez, a volunteer helping to provide relief, said that she expects the death toll will rise if access to gas or electricity remains disrupted.
“It’s been very cold here. It’s been below freezing, so if somebody didn’t have electricity or gas to heat their home, they may have frozen to death. I mean, it’s shocking,” said Vazquez, according to KTLA.
Conditions across the state are not only expected to worsen but persist for weeks ahead.
Governor Newsom issued another state of emergency on March 8 for 21 more counties due to the threat of an atmospheric river that could mix these wintry conditions with rain.
“The state is working around the clock with local partners to deploy life-saving equipment and first responders to communities across California,” said Newsom in the announcement. “With more dangerous storms on the horizon, we’ll continue to mobilize every available resource to protect Californians,” he continued.
The National Weather Service in the Bay Area expects this atmospheric river to arrive on March 9 through March 10 and bring with it thunderstorms capable of heavy rain and strong winds. The agency warned that flooding and downed trees are the main concern of this storm and that these conditions will continue into the following week.
Trent Smith, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Joaquin Valley, told The Dallas Express that this new system will have a significant impact on the Central Valley and the Sierra Nevada Mountains and that reservoirs in the area are already being pushed to their limits.
“Especially below 5,000 feet in elevation, the snow that is already on the ground has the potential of melting right along with all this rain, just putting a significant amount of moisture into the rivers and creeks across the region,” said Smith. “So the flooding concerns are gonna be a big problem across the region over the next 24 to 48 hours,” he continued.
Officials continue to monitor the situation in the state and have emergency services deployed.