California braces for heavy rains and flooding from back-and-forth 'Pineapple Express' storm

The West Coast braced for severe weather as more than 22 million people were under flood warnings Thursday and into the weekend and officials braced for Pacific storms.

About 32 million people are under a high wind warning, meaning widespread power outages are possible due to the “atmospheric river” effect, which is caused by airborne currents of dense moisture.

Two storms, Thursday and Sunday into Monday, also fit the description of the “Pineapple Express” that emerged in subtropical waters around Hawaii.

High elevations will be hit by snow, and inland, in the Rockies, more than a million people were under winter weather warnings, with several feet of snow expected in some places. Areas above 7,000 feet could see 12 to 18 inches of snow, National Weather Service meteorologist Robert Hart said at a briefing Wednesday.

Heavy snow fell early Thursday morning in Soda Springs, Nevada County, California, where drone footage showed traffic backed up, cars spinning out of control and snow plows active on Interstate 80.

Up to 2 feet of snow is possible in the Sierras through Friday.

Motorists travel along a rain-soaked U.S. Highway 101 during Wednesday's storm in San Francisco.Stephen Lam/San Francisco Chronicle via AP

The severe weather has already produced 70 mph winds in California. Sonoma County firefighters rescued a driver from a flooded road early Thursday morning from a car that was taking on water. Sonoma County Fire District X added in a post: “If the road is flooded, don't risk it #TurnAroundDontDrown.”

Wind gusts up to 45 mph could cause power outages across California.

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On Wednesday morning, firefighters rescued a girl who was trapped inside her home by a falling tree in Saratoga, California. He was treated at the hospital for non-life threatening injuries.

Southern California is expected to bear the brunt of Thursday's deluge Between 1 and 3 inches of rain is expected. A Wednesday night explanation, local thunderstorms could bring even more rain, the weather service said. The region is still recovering from unprecedented rainfall and flooding in recent weeks.

Orange County and San Bernardino, Calif., could see heavy rain beginning at 9 a.m. PT (12 p.m. ET), the agency said, with parts of San Bernardino and the mountains of Riverside County seeing heavy snow.

There may be some respite from the weather in California on Saturday, but another strong storm could arrive Sunday into Monday, again bringing heavy rain, wind and snow.

California's Department of Water Resources said it has nearly 5 million sandbags and more than 62,000 flood-blocking “super sacks” ready to cover the levees.

The City of San Diego issued a voluntary evacuation warning for residents in flood risk areas including South Crest, Mountain View, Encanto, San Ysidro, Sorrento Valley and Mission Valley. The city is opening a shelter at the municipal gym in Balboa Park and arranging transportation for the affected people.

“Residents in these areas should consider gathering important documents and belongings, and make sure you have a plan in place to get you and your family out of harm's way in the event of major flooding,” Mayor Todd Gloria said in a statement.

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“Protect your property, clear those drains, have a plan and a 'go' kit so you're prepared. Take these steps to be prepared and stay informed,” Jeff Toney, director of emergency services for San Diego County, said at a news conference Wednesday. There is a district offering Sandbags are free for residents to build their own flood barriers.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Office warns of an increase in traffic accidents during stormy weather. A post on X on Wednesday night said: “Slow down and take extra time to reach your destination alive.”

San Diego Humane Society Pet owners are stressed To ensure their animals have up-to-date ID tags and microchips in case they go missing during storms.

The second of two California storms, expected to hit Sunday through Tuesday, is expected to be one of the strongest, bringing new threats like high winds and power outages.

A new round of flood threats will be in the Bay Area on Sunday and Los Angeles on Monday.

These West Coast systems move eastward and can reach most of the area Central and North Texas by Friday.

While much of the West struggles with this wild weather, some areas are experiencing warmer-than-usual temperatures in the middle of winter.

The mercury hit 68 degrees in Boise, Idaho on Wednesday The hottest January day in the state In the record.

It should reach the upper 40s in Green Bay, Wisconsin and the low to mid 60s. Topeka, Kansas On Thursday, it will be much warmer than normal for this time of year.

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