Floods and landslides in California: there are 14 dead and more rains are expected

The number of dead by the relentless series of storms that began last week in California increased to 14after two people, one of them homeless, were killed by falling trees, state officials said.

The fresh rainfall inundated highways, battering coastlines with strong waves, turning rivers into floodplains and forcing the evacuation of thousands of people in cities with a history of deadly landslides.

The National Weather Service recorded up to 14 inches (35.5 centimeters) at higher elevations in central and southern California. After a brief respite, another storm is expected to hit the state, creating more problems and further saturating already-threatened areas with flooding and debris flows.

The storms left a legacy of chaotic roads, threatened coastal and riverside towns and left tens of thousands without power. governs a flood watch through Tuesday for the entire San Francisco Bay Area, along with the Sacramento Valley and Monterey Bay.

Areas affected by wildfires in recent years faced the possibility of mud and debris being dislodged from bare slopes that have not yet fully recovered their protective layer of vegetation.

“Additional heavy rain on Tuesday will exacerbate ongoing flooding and continue the risk of flash flooding and mudslides, especially in regions with recent fire scars,” the weather service said.

A cleanup crew walks through floodwaters in the Rio Del Mar neighborhood of Aptos, California. (AP Photo/Nic Coury) (Nic Coury/)

Forecasters also warned that southwestern California You could see wind gusts to 60 mph (97 kph) at the storm’s peak, while some areas could see rainfall of half an inch (12.7 millimeters) per hour.

California state highway authorities said late Monday that portions of US and state highways were closed due to flooding, mud or rock slides, heavy snow or skidding of cars and truck accidents. The closures included northbound lanes of US 101, a key coastal route, and sections of US 6 and State Route 168.

Evacuation orders have been issued in Santa Cruz County for some 32,000 residents who live near rain-swollen rivers and streams. The San Lorenzo River was declared in flood stage and drone footage showed numerous houses sitting in muddy brown water, with the top halves of cars peeking out.

Rain to linger as storm-weary Californians face evacuations
Duck Derrington, 61, of Lompoc, sleeps in his car in the parking lot of an evacuation center in Santa Barbara, California. (AP Photo/Ringo HW Chiu) (Ringo HW Chiu/)

A 5-year-old boy went missing in floodwaters Monday off the Central Coast. The boy’s mother was driving a truck when he was stranded in floodwaters near Paso Robles. Passers-by managed to free her, but the child was dragged out of the truck and takenprobably into a river, said Tom Swanson, deputy chief of the San Luis Obispo County/Cal Fire Department.

A roughly seven-hour search for the missing boy turned up only his shoe before authorities called off the search because water levels were too dangerous for divers, authorities said. The boy had not been pronounced dead, said spokesman Tony Cipolla of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office.

Rain to linger as storm-weary Californians face evacuations
The owners of Venus Pie Trap place sandbags in front of their restaurant in the Rio Del Mar neighborhood of Aptos, California. (AP Photo/Nic Coury) (Nic Coury/)

The neighborhood of celebrities, evacuated

About 130 miles (209 kilometers) to the south, about 10,000 people in Santa Barbara County were ordered to evacuate.

The entire coastal community of Montecito, home to Prince Harry, Oprah Winfrey and other celebrities, has been ordered to flee on the fifth anniversary of a landslide that killed 23 people and destroyed more than 100 homes in the coastal enclave.

County officials ordered the evacuation of 20 homes in the Orcutt area after flooding and a sinkhole damaged as many as 15 homes.

Jamie McLeod’s property was under an evacuation order from Montecito, but she said there was no way she was “getting off the mountain” with a rushing stream on one side and a landslide on the other. The 60-year-old owner of the Santa Barbara Bird Sanctuary said one of her employees came to make a weekly food delivery and also got stuck.

McLeod said she feels lucky that her home is on high ground and there is still power. But she is tired of the frequent evacuation orders since the massive forest fire followed by the deadly landslide five years ago.

“It’s not easy to relocate,” McLeod said. “I love it, except in case of catastrophe.”

Ellen DeGeneres shared an Instagram video of herself standing in front of a raging creek near the Montecito home where she lives with her wife, actress Portia de Rossi. She said in the post that they were told to shelter in place because they are on high ground.

“This is crazy”the talk show host, dressed in a hoodie and raincoat, says in the video.

A few miles further down the coast, another town, La Conchita in Ventura County, was ordered to evacuate. A mudslide killed 10 people there in 2005.

Over there, the Ventura River reached its highest level on record at over 25 feet (7.6 meters). Firefighters using helicopters rescued more than a dozen people trapped on an island in rough waters.

People carry their belongings upon arrival at an evacuation center in Santa Barbara, California.  (AP Photo/Ringo HW Chiu)
People carry their belongings upon arrival at an evacuation center in Santa Barbara, California. (AP Photo/Ringo HW Chiu) (Ringo HW Chiu/)

The storm also washed away 3 feet (1 meter) of mud and rock on State Highway 126, stranding a long line of cars and heavy trucks. Crews worked through the night to free them.

In Los Angeles, a sinkhole swallowed two cars in the Chatsworth area Monday night. Two people escaped alone and firefighters rescued two others who had minor injuries, authorities said.

Tens of thousands of people lost power, including some 17,000 Monday night in the Sacramento area. The number of customers without service is down from more than 350,000 the previous day after gusts to 60 mph toppled stately trees into power lines, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District said.

The National Weather Service warned of a “relentless parade of atmospheric rivers”, long columns of moisture that stretch out into the Pacific that can dump staggering amounts of rain and snow. The expected rainfall for the next few days comes after storms last week knocked out power, flooded streets and battered the coast.

Rain to linger as storm-weary Californians face evacuations
Hundreds of trees fell in Sacramento due to strong winds. (Sara Nevis/The Sacramento Bee via AP) (Sara Nevis/)

President Joe Biden issued an emergency declaration Monday to support storm response and relief efforts in more than a dozen counties.

Much of California remains in severe to extreme drought, though storms have helped fill depleted reservoirs.

(with information from AP)

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