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Everything You Need to Know About California's Bomb Cyclone—and How to Help

A fast-forming bomb cyclone hit California on Wednesday afternoon. Here's what you need to know.

bomb cyclone
Written by
Calin Van Paris
doesn't do things halfway. When it's dry, it's really dry. And when it's stormy? Well, let's just say that the rain—and the wind, and the rising tides and rivers—can be intense. This is evidenced by the bomb cyclone that is currently hitting the West Coast, resulting in rampant flooding, power outages, felled trees, and general unease.
The bomb cyclone began forming off the coast earlier this week, swirling over the Pacific Ocean and toward the California coast, where it began to make landfall Wednesday afternoon. Now, residents of the state are dealing with the fallout of the strengthening storm.

What Is a Bomb Cyclone?

Also known as bombogenesis, a bomb cyclone is a rapidly developing storm, formed when a low-pressure system decreases in pressure by
24 millibars in 24 hours
. The effect can occur when
cold air collides with warm air
, particularly over warm ocean waters, the Earth's turning resulting in the subsequent cyclone.

How Is the Bomb Cyclone Affecting California?

Photo: Anthony Martinez/
The years 2019-2022 saw California's
driest years on record
, leaving the earth bone dry and rife for future landslides. Now, as the bomb cyclone follows December's atmospheric rivers—a band of moisture that can instantly carry
two to three times
the volume of the Amazon River—sapped soil and land parched and
devoid of vegetation
due to
are susceptible to a rapid reach of saturation points, leading to mudslides, erosion, and flash flooding.
Rainfall is expected to reach anywhere from 2-10 inches in various climates across the state, with coastal winds gusting at up to 85 mph and, thus far, leaving
up to 100,000 residents
of the Bay Area and Central Coast without power as the strong winds continue to take out lines. 90% of California's population is
currently on flood watch
The intensity of these storms is another aspect of the extreme weather seen around the world, a direct effect of climate change. A warming planet means warmer air, and
warm air holds more moisture
, making
"big rain events"
a standard part of our environmental future.
As the state's storms continue to worsen, many are wondering state's dam and levee systems will be enough to weather future storms, or if a
new approach is needed

How You Can Help

As Californians prep to ride out the storm by stocking up on fuel, sandbags, and drinking water, the primary humanitarian concern is for the safety of the state's
unhoused population
, many of whom make their homes near now overflowing creeks and rivers, and even in previously empty riverbeds.
The state seems to be in general disarray, with no clear path for disaster relief as of yet, but donations to shelters in
San Francisco
San Jose
, Sacramento, and Los Angeles will be helpful given the influx of those sure to be seeking shelter in the coming days.