A drenched California emerged Wednesday from a powerful multiday storm that unleashed rain, snow and raging floodwaters, leaving one person dead and four others missing.
Lingering showers, mountain snow and gusty winds were tapering off, and the National Weather Service issued overnight frost and freeze advisories due to the cold airmass behind the storm.
The tempest unleashed heavy downpours Tuesday in Southern California, where one person was found dead after runoff surging down a creek channel swept 10 people away in the city of Ontario. Five were rescued and firefighters were searching for four others, Fire Chief Ray Gayk said Wednesday.
“As far as we know, there were homeless people in the storm drains and that’s when they got washed away by the surge of water and they ended up in the actual storm drain system,” Gayk told the Los Angeles Times.
A tornado touched down a few miles outside the town of Galt near Sacramento at 1:40 p.m. Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service. No major damage was reported.
The storm continued to affect travel Wednesday on highways through the Sierra Nevada after heavy snow and whiteout conditions. Chain controls remained in effect and big rigs were restricted altogether on some sections of routes through the towering mountain range.
In the southern Sierra, a helicopter crew retrieved the body of a hiker found on a mountain pass, the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday. The body was discovered Saturday after an earlier storm swept through the area last week.
The potent fall storms are a promising start to California’s wet season, although experts say it will take much more precipitation to reverse the impacts of the state’s historic drought.
UC Berkeley’s Central Sierra Snow Lab reported that this week’s storm dropped 34.3 inches (87 centimeters) of snow by Wednesday, and that the eight-day total was 54 inches (130.5 cm).
Among Lake Tahoe snow sport resorts, Mt. Rose and Boreal announced plans to open for the season on Friday. The Eastern Sierra resort of Mammoth Mountain, which opened last weekend, reported totals from the departing storm ranged from 49-70 inches (124-178 cm).
Annual snowfall in the Sierra normally provides about a third of the state’s water when it melts. Last year, however, California had powerful storms in October and December but experienced its driest January through April on record.