California will see widespread rain and heavy Sierra Nevada snowfall through midweek, potentially bringing travel problems and raising the risk of damaging runoff from wildfire burn scars, forecasters said Tuesday.
The wet pattern from a deep atmospheric fetch of Pacific moisture marks a significant change in the weather following conditions that contributed to disastrous and deadly wildfires up and down California, where hundreds of thousands of acres have burned this year.
“This is good news to help minimize that fire activity,” Cal Fire spokesman Scott McLean said . “But remember that if you are in an area that has seen recent fires this year or latter part of last year it could mean trouble as that soil is much more prone to mudslides and debris flow.”
The National Weather Service said there was a risk of heavy rainfall in northwest California through Tuesday night, then spreading farther south down virtually all of the coastal ranges and some interior sections of the state through Wednesday and Thursday.
Snow accumulations in the Sierra could range from 2-4 feet (0.6-1.2 meters), the NWS said.
In the Sierra, chain controls were put into effect on Interstate 80 between Kingvale and the Donner Lake interchange, the California Department of Transportation said.
On the coast near Big Sur, Caltrans planned to close a section of Highway 1 between Mud Creek and Paul’s Slide for 48 hours starting Wednesday morning because of potential instability.
The scenic route perched between towering mountainsides and the ocean has been dogged by slides since late 2016. But the one that hit Mud Creek near Ragged Point in May 2017 was monumental. Millions of tons of earth moved, displacing 75 acres (30 hectares) of land and extensive work was required to rebuild the highway over the slide.
Caltrans also warned that chains will be required for travel through the mountains of San Bernardino and Riverside counties east of Los Angeles when the storm arrives there Wednesday evening. Flash flood watches were to go into effect Thursday morning in those area as well as parts of Orange County.
Forecasters also warned of very high surf along the coast. (VOA)
U.S. health officials are preparing for a second wave of the winter flu season, complicated this year by similarities between flu symptoms and those of the coronavirus that has killed more than 1,500 in China and spread fear around the world.
A first round of seasonal flu, caused by a strain of influenza B, named B-Victoria for the city in which it was discovered, peaked in the United States in late December and then dropped off, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, the CDC says a second round of flu began in late January, caused by a strain of influenza A that is related to the swine flu that first appeared in 2009, and cases continue to increase.
While there have only been 15 confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States as of Friday, health officials have expressed concern that if the virus were to spread in the country, it could initially look like the spread of seasonal flu.
In part to address these concerns, U.S. health officials announced they would begin testing some patients who have flulike symptoms for coronavirus in several U.S. cities.
The testing will initially be carried out by public health labs in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago and New York, which are already testing for seasonal flu.
Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters in a telephone briefing Friday that labs will conduct the coronavirus test on patients who show flulike respiratory symptoms, but who test negative for the seasonal flu.
Both the seasonal flu and coronavirus cause respiratory illness, fever and cough. Other typical flu symptoms include sore throat, muscle aches, runny nose and fatigue, according to the CDC.
While scientists have studied the flu for decades, little is known about this coronavirus, dubbed COVID-19, because it is so new. Health officials are still trying to understand all the symptoms related to the new virus, as well has how it spreads and how often cases are severe. There have been few studies on the symptoms of coronavirus, however, research suggests patients most commonly suffer from fever, cough and shortness of breath and are less likely than flu patients to suffer from a sore throat and runny nose.
To prevent the spread of the coronavirus to the United States, CDC officials have put in place travel restrictions and quarantine policies for people who recently visited China. However, officials say that strategy would change if the virus were to spread quickly in the United States.
Messonnier said if there were an outbreak of coronavirus in the United States, the CDC would call for “social distancing” strategies that would include online schooling, teleworking, and canceling mass gatherings, in an effort to prevent people from spreading the virus.
Flu kills 14,000 in US
While health officials put plans in place for any possible outbreak of coronavirus, doctors around the United States continue to help patients battle the seasonal flu. The CDC estimates that 26 million Americans have gotten sick with flu this season and around people 14,000 have died.
Health officials say the first wave of the flu, a B strain, has hit children particularly hard this season, causing 92 deaths in children. B strains are more likely to cause a more severe illness and death in children. Cases of the flu among the elderly have been down this season.
The CDC says concern about coronavirus might have prompted more people with flu symptoms to go their doctor for testing this season, although they say there is nothing in their data to confirm this. Messonnier said if more people are going to the doctor that is a good thing. “
People being a little worried and seeking care doesn’t especially worry me, because that’s the point,” she said. (VOA)