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California declares emergency in counties buried by snow as latest storm moves east

Daniela Simona Temneanu / EyeEm/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency in more than a dozen counties as the typically warm state digs out from rare snowstorms.

Wednesday’s emergency proclamation in the counties of Amador, Kern, Los Angeles, Madera, Mariposa, Mono, Nevada, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Sierra, Sonoma and Tulare will free up state resources to support the disaster response and relief. The governor also activated the California National Guard to be ready to support the operations.

A series of severe winter storms struck the West Coast over the last week, burying Southern California’s mountain communities under mounds of snow and stranding thousands of residents. Mount Baldy in the San Gabriel Mountains and Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains, both in California’s San Bernardino County, accumulated 106 inches of snow. Since Saturday, Soda Springs in California’s Nevada County has received 114 inches of snow, or 9.5 feet.

Over the past week, Palisade Tahoe ski resort in California’s Placer County in the Sierra Nevada mountain range got a whopping 146 inches snow, or more than 12 feet. That brings the cumulative total for the season to 500 inches, or nearly 42 feet, making it the snowiest October through February period since 1970. Palisade Tahoe, the largest skiing complex in the Lake Tahoe region, was shut down on Tuesday due to the amount of snowfall. Other ski resorts in the area have also had to temporarily close.

The latest storm system to hit the West Coast was expected to move out of the region on Thursday and bring severe weather across the South. More than 90 million people across 36 states were on alert for heavy snow, avalanches, flash flooding, strong winds and tornadoes. The cities of Dallas, Texas; Shreveport, Louisiana; and Little Rock, Arkansas, were in the storm’s forecasted path for Thursday.

The system is expected to move into the Southeast and up to the Ohio Valley region on Friday, hitting a number major cities along the way such as Atlanta, Georgia; Birmingham, Alabama; Charlotte, North Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; and Lexington, Kentucky. The main threat will be damaging winds and possibly several tornadoes.

Meanwhile, heavy rain could trigger flash flooding from Oklahoma to Ohio, with local rainfall amounts of 3 to 5 inches.

The same system could also bring the biggest snowstorm of the season to Chicago on Friday. The city in Illinois could get more than 6 inches of snow.

The whiteout is forecast to spread into the Northeast on Friday evening, bringing a wintry mix from New York City to Boston, with heavy snow more inland from upstate New York to Maine. Locally, parts of the inland Northeast could see more than 6 inches of snow.

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