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Northern California braces for 'brutal' flooding as 'bomb cyclone' closes in
02:21 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Parts of drought-plagued California are facing an onslaught of powerful storms to start the new year, bringing flooding rainfall and even mud and debris flows to the state.

The latest in the series of storms are expected to reach the coast Wednesday morning, and while the entire state will see impacts by the end of Thursday, Northern California and the Bay Area are likely to see the worst of the weather.

A so-called “bomb cyclone” over the Pacific Ocean – named because of how rapidly it intensifies over a short period of time – will sling a series of fronts at the West Coast. These fronts are being super-fueled with tropical moisture from a potent atmospheric river that stretches west to Hawaii.

While the prolonged wet conditions will provide some relief to the drought conditions, the rain has proved too much too fast.

According to the National Weather Service, the storm could trigger more widespread flooding, roads washing out, hillside collapsing, fallen trees, major power outages, “immediate disruption to commerce, and the worst of all, likely loss of human life.”

“This is truly a brutal system that we are looking at and needs to be taken seriously,” the NWS Bay Area office added.

The storm is part of a major system offshore over the Pacific Ocean that's drawing moisture from the tropics up into California.

The storms are called “atmospheric rivers” because they are essentially a conveyor belt of concentrated moisture in the atmosphere emerging from the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean. A similar storm unleashed rains, deadly floods, debris flows and hurricane-force winds, particularly in Northern California including the Bay Area, over the weekend.