“California is mobilizing to keep people safe from the impacts of the incoming storm,” Newsom said. “This state of emergency will allow the state to respond quickly as the storm develops and support local officials in their ongoing response.”
The proclamation authorizes the mobilization of the state's National Guard and puts the State Operations Center at its highest level of readiness.
Fueled by the merger of a bomb cyclone and an atmospheric river, the storm that is forecast to unleash multiple inches of new rainfall along with high winds began lashing the California coastline late Wednesday morning, hours after it had originally been expected to push on shore.
The storm comes on the heels of a historic rainfall event in Northern California on Dec. 31, in which San Francisco received 5.46 inches of rain, just shy of its all-time record. With the ground now saturated and with numerous rivers already at flood stage, the additional rain and wind are expected to cause chaos across much of the state, including the possibility of large-scale power outages.
"Take inventory of the items you need that rely on electricity," the governor's office warned in a press release. "Plan for batteries and other alternative power sources to meet your needs if the power goes out such as a portable charger or power bank. Have flashlights for every household member. Determine whether your home phone will work in a power outage and how long battery backup will last."
Other effects of the storm, such as impassable roads, are also considered likely.
“We anticipate that this may be one of the most challenging and impactful series of storms to touch down in California in the last five years,” Nancy Ward, director of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, said at a Wednesday news conference.
Ahead of the heaviest rains, which are expected late Wednesday into Thursday, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office issued evacuation warnings for parts of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
As the storm approached, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention, which normally issues alerts concerning wildfires in the state, was warning residents about the dangers of flooding.
The National Weather Service has issued flood watches for counties across the state, including cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento.
While the storm hitting Wednesday into Thursday is the most immediate threat to the state, California is also forecast to continue to see heavy rain from an ongoing atmospheric river in nine of the next 10 days.
"Residual flooding impacts could extend into the weekend along with additional storms lingering into next week," Newsom's office said in a press release.