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What is an atmospheric river? Strong storm to drench California

A powerful atmospheric river could bring several inches of rain on the central and southern parts of California.

(REUTERS/Gene Blevins)

California residents, brace yourselves: an atmospheric river could bring several inches of rain on the central and southern parts of the state in the next few days.

Read on for a look at the meteorological phenomeonon — and what to expect from the storm.

“Rivers in the sky”

An atmospheric river is a huge plume of subtropical moisture.

“Atmospheric rivers are relatively long, narrow regions in the atmosphere – like rivers in the sky – that transport most of the water vapor outside of the tropics, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says.

“When the atmospheric rivers make landfall, they often release this water vapor in the form of rain or snow,” according to the agency.

They can also be heavy rainfall and destruction, although “most of which are weak systems, which is often beneficial rain or snow that is of crucial importance for the water supply.”

The NOAA says atmospheric rivers are usually 250 to 375 km in width.

What’s the matter with California?

Cities in central and southern California would be hit with rain. The National Weather Service (NWS) is predicting more than seven inches for Ojai and almost six inches for San Luis Obispo from Tuesday to Friday morning.

Updated rainfall storm totals. Steady rain with periods of moderate to heavy rainfall are expected mainly Saturday night through Thu. pic.twitter.com/PnHiJxFxiQ

— NWS Los Angeles (@NWSLosAngeles) 20 March 2018

As many as 30,000 people have been communities from the afternoon on the south coast of Santa Barbara County, where a Jan. 9 flood unleashed deadly debris flows in Montecito.

Where are the recent burn areas? The most related to: Thomas, Whittier, La Tuna, Sherpa, Fish, and Sand burns. If you are in the area of these burns, DEBRIS FLOWS PROBABLY, stay alert to the weather and the attention messages/evacuations of emergency officials. #larain #cawx #thomasfire #Montecito pic.twitter.com/UiEIltKpGi

— NWS Los Angeles (@NWSLosAngeles) 20 March 2018

Neighboring Ventura County has taken similar measures amid the concerns in the neighbouring provinces.

Northern California can also be affected by the atmospheric river: the NWS says to expect precipitation begins Tuesday, with the descent of the most of Wednesday and Thursday.

An atmospheric river is set to affect #NorCal in the next few days. Expected wet weather and in the snow mountains. #CAwx pic.twitter.com/cGBFKj2hhd

— NWS Sacramento (@NWSSacramento) 20 March 2018

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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