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California braces for "bomb cyclone" with flash flooding, mudslides

CBS News logo CBS News 10/24/2021 Lilia Luciano
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The weather is about to get much more intense in California. A massive wall of rain is heading to the northern part of the state, and communities are bracing for flash flooding and dangerous mudslides.

The storm system heading to the West Coast is so ferocious it's known as a "bomb cyclone," and it's helping to drive a river of moisture towards northern California. Massive rainfall and strong winds are on the way. In areas scorched bare by wildfires, flash flooding and mudslides could pose grave danger.

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"The water flows off instead of soaking in and it can start picking up pebbles and then rocks, boulders, trees. And it can be severely damaging," Marty Ralph, an expert on weather and water extremes at the University of California in San Diego, told CBS News. 

On a scale of one to five, he says this system is a five. In areas like Nevada County, hit hard by the River Fire, emergency officials are telling residents to be ready to evacuate once again.

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"I travel light so if they say evacuations, I'll just get the hell out of dodge," resident Kevin Fatemi said.

But the rain does at least have an upside in the region exhausted by extreme weather conditions. Ralph says it won't end the drought, but it will make a dent.

"This will pretty much put an end to the risk of major fires in Northern California for the season," Ralph said. 

The storm will also have an upside for skiers, bringing heavy snowfall to the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. Mammoth Ski Resort is already on target for its snowiest October in a decade and plans to open two weeks ahead of schedule. 

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Northern and central California will get the first soaking. Rain is expected to arrive in Los Angeles by Monday. 

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