After dumping several inches of rain and snow on the west coast of the U.S., the storm system is not expected to take a respite this week as the Weather Department has warned that it will be moving eastwards. New York City is seeing the most significant snowfall of the season, with 1.8 inches on the ground in Central Park and up to 5.6 inches in the Bronx reported on February 28. The same storm has brought at least seven reported tornadoes from Illinois to Ohio as of February 27. Multiple tornado advisories and alerts have been issued for areas of Texas and Oklahoma. According to the weather agency, at least ten tornadoes and 12 injuries have been reported in Oklahoma and several other scattered damaging winds on the night of February 26. The devastating gusts have led to power outages for over 135,000 citizens as of February 27.
A wild storm also wreaked havoc along the west coast, swelling rivers to dangerous levels, and resulting in snowfall even low-lying areas of California. Los Angeles is on track to see the longest winter streak in 35 years with eight consecutive days below 60 degrees as forecasted till March 1. Flooding, frigid temperatures, and snow-clad mountains of Santa Clarita have left the inland suburbs in shock Nearly 85,000 households and businesses were left without power. A massive winter storm and harsh weather is expected to continue this week as well.
The record-breaking rain has not caused any deaths as of yet. However, the torrential rains did cause damage in Yosemite National Park leading to rockslides due to erosion. Heavy downpours caused the Santa Clara river to swell and an embankment collapsed in Valencia. Meanwhile, San Bernardino County issued a state of emergency on February 27 after several residents found themselves trapped at home or unable to reach home. The officers released a statement saying, “there is no estimate for when the mountain highways will open but state is working round the clock to bring relief and resources in this extreme weather.” Moreover, 2500 flights were grounded last week in anticipation of the storm.
On February 24, Los Angeles recorded rainfall of magnitude greater than the total rainfall from the past three Februarys. Reuters reported that snowflakes even fell over the Hollywood sign on top of Mount Lee, an area which usually sees sunny days. The weather service’s Sacramento office warned on Twitter on February 27, ‘Extremely dangerous and near to impossible mountain travel is expected due to heavy snow and strong winds.’
The question which is important to address is why the world is experiencing more and more cases of extreme and unexpected weather events. According to scientists, the extremes we are facing are because of climate change making the weather variations across the globe more erratic. Scientists have found that global temperature increases supercharging the impacts caused by intense bursts of rainfall from warming and moisture laden atmosphere. There is also evidence that the climate crisis is intensifying the strength of hurricanes in the eastern U.S. Adam Smith, an applied climatologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said, “It does not seem likely that these trends will reverse. Perhaps we need to be more prepared for a future that has rapidly become our present.”