This holiday season is seeing more than a pleasant flurry of snow — the West is experiencing a severe storm known as an atmospheric river.

An atmospheric river is a type of storm that will bring heavy rain and wind, per NPR. This storm originates in the tropics and brings a narrow channel of wind that carries water vapors to the West Coast. These storms can be deadly and cause a lot of damage.

National Weather Service senior forecaster Bob Oravec told NPR that “atmospheric rivers that contain the largest amounts of water vapor and strongest winds lead to extreme rainfall and flooding, causing damage to property and inducing mudslides.”

While this meteorological phenomenon is responsible for a majority of the rain the West experiences during colder seasons, it has already led to deaths.

Related
Mother Nature on tap to give us another blast of year-end snow
Rising Danger

Casualties and damage from the severe weather

Five people died in Oregon in accidents related to severe weather.

Oregon State Police said that there have been fatal accidents from the severe weather, per The New York Times. On Highway 26, three people died in an accident where a large tree fell on the roof of a car. Later on, another tree landed on the cab of a truck and killed the driver. On Interstate 84, a tree fell on the passenger side of a U-Haul dolly trailer and killed the passenger.

Many people are without power in the Pacific Northwest as well. KSL News Radio reported, “By Tuesday evening, the rain, snow and wind had knocked out power to about 140,000 customers in Oregon, 18,000 in California, and 31,000 in Washington state, according to poweroutage.us.”

In California, the storm has led to trees falling down and high winds knocking down power lines. The New York Times reported, “After a brief lull on Wednesday, the storm is expected to regain momentum, pounding a stretch from Central California to the Pacific Northwest with heavy rain and snow at higher elevations.”


What to expect in the West this week

Experts are warning of flash floods and avalanches in some areas. CNN reported that avalanche warnings were issued for areas of Idaho, Colorado, Montana and California. According to ABC affiliate KABC, flash flooding from a creek overspill in the North Bay area led people to abandon their cars on the highway due to the flooding.

Utah is also experiencing the effects of this storm. According to NPR, Salt Lake City saw wind gusts from 45 to 55 mph on Tuesday evening. More rain and snow is expected in the Four Corners area, per CNN, which includes Utah. Residents can expect high-elevation snowfall and low-elevation rainfall through Thursday.

On Tuesday, the Deseret News reported that residents can expect a snowy end to the year, “The National Weather Service in Salt Lake City has issued a winter storm for northern and eastern Utah, much of central Utah and into southern Utah, which includes Bryce Canyon National Park and the St. George area.”

Related
Buffalo blizzard death toll 34 as teams clear roads, search for victims