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SALINAS: US President Joe Biden declared a major state of disaster in California on Sunday, where worse weather is expected after three weeks of unprecedented rain that killed at least 19 people.

Joe Biden has ordered federal aid to help residents and communities across the state recover from severe winter storms that have caused flooding, mudslides and mudslides since Dec. 27, according to a statement from the White House.

Heavy rain and a wave of snow in the mountains swept across much of the US’s most populous state on Saturday, leaving the ground already waterlogged.

The National Weather Service warns that a new “atmospheric river,” a narrow band in the atmosphere carrying large amounts of moisture from the tropics, will bring “new waves of extreme precipitation” on Monday, a US public holiday. (NWS).

Power lines were damaged, farmlands and roads were flooded.

The NWS expects “catastrophic flooding” in the lower Salinas River Valley, an important agricultural region south of San Francisco Bay.

“It’s not over,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom warned at a press conference, arguing that even if the intensity of the rain eases, land remains inundated and the risk of flooding remains, which is why it’s important.

“I urge all of us to remain vigilant and use our common sense for the next 24 to 48 hours,” he said, noting Californians are tired after weeks of torrential rains.

Evacuation order

About 26 million Californians were still under a flash flood warning Saturday night, and tens of thousands of them were ordered to evacuate, according to the NWS.

In Salinas, a region of 160,000 people south of San Francisco, where the river of the same name overflows its banks, the flooding affected agricultural corners of the valley but spared urban areas, an AFP journalist noted on Saturday morning.

Most residents in the Spreckles housing estate, located a few hundred meters from the river, did not evacuate this week despite warnings from authorities.

“Looks like we avoided the worst,” breathes Robert Zagajeski, walking his dog in the light rain. According to forecasters, the river should begin to recede from Saturday.

Like the rest of California, Salinas, home of John Steinbeck, who inspired the Nobel Prize in Literature to write The Grapes of Wrath, continues to experience flooding.

“We need as much rain as possible, but farmers can’t do anything with such wet fields,” sighs Zagajeski.

A few kilometers away, Erik Diaz watches the flooded fields from his modest wooden house near the river. Despite the evacuation order, 17,000 people in the region are staying at home.

“I have nowhere to go and so far so good,” said the 30-year-old farm worker.

strong blizzard

“The area has suffered a lot from drought in recent years,” said Manuel Paris, a 58-year-old farm worker, marveling at the rushing river below. “It’s been a long time, we’re not used to this much rain anymore.”

An AFP reporter saw tractors trying to return floodwaters to the river in fields near Salinas.

In the mountains, this precipitation is turning into heavy snow, with more than a meter expected in the Sierra Nevada over the weekend, with authorities warning of the risk of avalanches and advising against any movement.

Officials at the Lake Tahoe ski resort in Nevada have released photos showing dozens of cars lined up on the road due to a severe blizzard.

At least 19 people have died since the streak of bad weather began. In particular, it was discovered that drivers’ cars were crushed by waves, people were hit by falling trees, couples died as a result of landslides, and bodies were found under flood waters.

California is used to extreme weather, and winter storms are common. Such a sequence is unusual.

While it is difficult to make a direct link between this series of storms and climate change, scientists consistently report that warming is increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.

However, experts say the torrential rains of the past few weeks will not be enough to end a two-decade drought that has plagued this western US state.

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