‘Atmospheric river’ slams Northern California, kills 2 in Washington state

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A potentially historic storm system roared ashore Sunday in Northern California, prompting the National Weather Service in Sacramento to urge anyone in the path of the “atmospheric river” to brace for a “wild 24 to 36 hours.” At least two people died in Washington state as the storm pushed across Puget Sound.

>> Atmospheric river: Photos, videos capture deadly storms in California, Pacific Northwest

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Update 9:35 p.m. EDT Oct. 24: At least two people have died as storms associated with the “atmospheric river” pushing through California ravaged Oregon and Washington state on Sunday.

Two people died after a tree fell on a car in Fall City, about 20 miles east of Seattle, on Sunday afternoon, Eastside Fire and Rescue confirmed to KIRO-TV.

The strong storm system, which has also caused power outages affecting tens of thousands of people across the two states, is expected to continue through Monday.

Original report: The long and wide plume of moisture, pulled in from the Pacific Ocean and expected to move south over the next few days, was accompanied by drenching rains and strong winds that toppled trees, flooded highways and spawned mud flows in areas scorched by recent fires.

>>Click here for local coverage of the storm by KIRO7 in Seattle

According to The Washington Post, Sacramento last week recorded its first 0.01 inches of rain since March 19, but now sits poised to absorb more than half a foot of flooding rains, following a 222-day drought.

>> Related: Heavy rains, high winds expected to pound California, Pacific Northwest

Through mid-morning local time Sunday, more than 3.5 inches of rain had fallen in Santa Rosa; both San Francisco and Oakland received nearly 2 inches; Sacramento recorded nearly 1.5 inches; and Mount Tamalpais, just north of San Francisco, had already received more than half a foot of rain, the Post reported.

In addition to the double-digit rainfall totals some northern California locales are expected to receive, the Level 5 of 5 atmospheric river is expected to dump as many as six feet of fresh mountain snow, the newspaper reported.

Meanwhile, western Washingtonians monitored the system - which reached its full strength Sunday morning about 500 miles off the coast of Astoria, Oregon - as it underwent “bombogenesis,” a meteorological term for a very rapidly strengthening area of low pressure, KIRO-TV reported.

“Some of our higher elevation locations could see 6, 7, 8 inches of rain before we’re all said and done,” NWS meteorologist Sean Miller told The Associated Press.

Meanwhile, multiple mudslides and debris flows within the massive Caldor Fire burn scar forced the California Highway Patrol to close State Route 70 in Butte County, about 150 miles north of the Bay Area.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.