Storm Watch: When to expect the worst of the atmospheric river in Solano County


The storm system moving through Northern California has the potential to be one of the most-destructive winter events in decades.

The storm — described by forecasters as a combination atmospheric river and bomb cyclone — is expected to bring several inches of rain as well as heavy wind gusts over a sustained amount of time between Wednesday morning and Thursday afternoon.

Widespread urban flooding and prolonged power outages are possible, even in areas where outages and flooding rarely occurred during recent winter storms. Wildfire burn scars are subject to landslides and significant soil erosion in the coming days.

Flood and high wind warnings have been issued for nearly every county in Northern California from Wednesday morning to Thursday evening, except along the California-Nevada border, where a winter storm warning is in effect.

Timing of the Storm

The storm is expected to start Wednesday morning with rain showers and moderate wind between 5 and 10 miles per hour around the time of the morning commute.

The rain and the wind are expected to increase slightly around 2:30 p.m., marking the start of the worst of Wednesday evening’s storm. By 4 p.m., the rain will be heavier and the wind will increase to between 25 and 35 miles per hour, with wind gusts up to 60 miles per hour possible in some areas.

The peak of the storm will come Wednesday evening, with the wind starting to slow down by midnight Thursday. Forecasters say wind gusts could be around 40 miles per hour between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. Thursday, which still has the potential to cause power outages and property damage.

Work Remotely, If Possible

While the morning commute won’t be impacted much by the rain and wind, the afternoon and evening commute will. For this reason, officials are urging those who can work remotely from home to do so, or take the day off from work if possible.

Solano NewsNet confirmed public schools throughout Solano County — including those in Benicia, Dixon, Fairfield-Suisun City, Rio Vista, Vacaville and Vallejo — are closed due to a winter recess period, which is scheduled to end at the end of the week for most school districts. (Some private schools adhere to a different schedule.)

State transit officials are already bracing for serious traffic disruptions Wednesday afternoon and evening, with an increased possibility of roadway flooding in urban and suburban areas as well as spinouts, disabled vehicles and crashes.

Power Outages are Likely

The Pacific Gas & Electric Company says it began mobilizing its workforce early to prepare for Wednesday’s storm. More than 360 four-person crews and 397 line workers — PG&E calls them “troublemen” — are among the personnel who have been activated to respond to weather-related gas and electrical service disruptions.

Already, PG&E says over 500,000 customers have had their power restored from a storm that crossed through Northern California during the New Year’s holiday weekend.

More than 1,000 customers between Miner Slough and Courtland north of Rio Vista are still without power — and those customers are likely to remain in the dark through the entirety of Wednesday’s storm, which is expected to be significantly worse.

PG&E says it has requested mutual assistance from Southern California Edison and other western utility companies, and says it is deploying resources based on forecasts that indicate where the potential for power outages are the highest. (It did not release information publicly about the specific locations where it forecast potential power outages.)

“This weather system by itself would present widespread challenges, and we have to factor in that many parts of our service area remain saturated after last weekend's storm. Our crews have been working tirelessly to ensure we minimize any impacts this storm may have on our customers and hometowns,” Angie Gibson, the vice president of PG&E’s emergency preparedness division, said in a statement. “We encourage customers to prepare for the storm now – have an emergency plan in case you lose power and update your contact information on PG&E's website, so we can provide you with real-time updates on outages in your neighborhood.”

Alert Solano

Solano County’s emergency alert notification system, Alert Solano, will be used to advise residents about evacuation warnings and orders, closed roads, disruptive flooding, power outages and other urgent information. The messages are delivered to residents and businesses based on the address they use when signing up for Alert Solano, which is free. Alert Solano delivers emergency notifications by phone call, text message and e-mail. To sign up for Alert Solano, click or tap here.

For a list of other resources, including local government Facebook pages and free ways to stream local news broadcasts from radio and television stations during the storm, click or tap here.

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