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Winter storms in California cause mudslides, with heavy snow forecast

Powerful storms have lashed California in recent days, causing mudslides that have damaged homes. Heavy snow, strong winds and rain since 24 February have toppled trees and power lines across the state, leaving more than 120,000 people without electricity.

Blocked mountain roads mean people living in San Bernardino County, southern California, are stranded with dwindling food and fuel supplies, causing a local emergency to be declared. So far, no deaths or injuries due to the storm have been reported, although at least 22 people died in storms California experienced in January.

The storm is causing “extremely dangerous to impossible driving conditions” and “widespread road closures & infrastructure impacts”, according to a tweet by the US National Weather Service.

It has also broken several records. The temperature in San Francisco dipped to 4°C (39°F) on 24 February, its lowest in 132 years. Meanwhile, Los Angeles International Airport saw a record rainfall of 52 millimetres on 25 February. A blizzard warning was announced by the National Weather Service in San Diego, southern California, for the first time ever.

Over the next few days, heavy snow is forecast to fall in northern California, where the National Weather Service has predicted it to accumulate at 51 mm per hour amid wind gusts of up to 97 kilometres per hour.

Before this most recent storm, the state was already experiencing an unusually cold and rainy winter that has already caused flooding and mudslides.

One upside of the gloomy weather is that it may help ease the droughts that California experiences, Samantha Connolly at the National Weather Service told Scientific American. Reservoirs have been replenished – although groundwater supplies remain low.

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