(Trends Wide) — Another powerful storm moves into southern California after forcing the evacuation of thousands in the north, prompting dozens of water rescues, causing widespread damage and increasing the death toll to 16 after a series of back-to-back storms that has endured the state in recent weeks.
More than 11 million people in West Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties were under a flood warning Tuesday morning, while some 34 million people across California — around 10 % of all Americans—are under flood watches as the risk of mudslides also shifts to the Los Angeles and San Diego area.
Tuesday’s storms are just the latest in a surge of atmospheric rivers that have battered the West Coast in recent weeks. The parade of storms has triggered dangerous flooding and mudslides and prompted evacuations across the state, with much of California receiving rainfall totals 400% to 600% above average in that time.
In the 24 hours through Monday night, between 2 and 7 inches of rain had fallen across much of the lower-lying areas of the state. It was wetter in the mountainous areas of Southern California, where more than 12 inches of rain fell from Sunday through early Tuesday, particularly along the mountains of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. .
The biggest threat of new flooding this Tuesday will be to the mountains just east of Los Angeles, where 2 to 4 inches more rain could fall.
“Today’s heavy rains will further exacerbate current flooding while prolonging the risk of … mudslides,” the Weather Prediction Center said Tuesday, no small threat to California’s already drought-scarred soil. historic and devastating forest fires.
From north to south of the Golden State this week, flooding, mudslides or the threat thereof have prompted evacuations, road closures and desperate rescues. On Monday, trees fell, homes lost power and major roads turned into rivers or were otherwise closed as storms unleashed strong winds and downpours.
In Santa Cruz County, southwest of San Jose, Rachel Oliveria stayed home Monday as water from a nearby river rose and flooded her residence.
“It came very quickly,” Oliveira said. “In a matter of minutes, it came from across the street to our garden, and it was really fast.”
A summary of the latest events:
- Dead Drivers: On the central coast of California, a driver died Monday afternoon after entering a flooded avenue in Avila Beach, about 290 km northwest of Los Angeles, according to the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office. Then, the California Highway Patrol reported Tuesday that two drivers were killed in the San Joaquin Valley after a tree fell on State Route 99 in Visalia. As of Tuesday afternoon, at least 16 people have died in California from the recent storms, “more lives than the wildfires of the past two years combined,” Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office said Monday.
- A missing child: A 5-year-old boy was washed away Monday morning near the Salinas River in San Miguel, about 350 km northwest of Los Angeles, authorities said. An hours search for the boy was suspended Monday afternoon “because the weather conditions had become too severe and it was no longer safe for emergency services,” the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office spokesman said. , Tony Cipolla, via Trends Wide.
- Montecito Evacuation: In Southern California, the entire coastal city of Montecito—a haven for the rich and famous—was ordered to evacuate Monday due to significant flooding, mudslides and debris flows. Surrounding residents, including those in Santa Barbara, Carpinteria and Summerland, were also ordered to evacuate. Montecito received nearly 10 inches of rain in the 24 hours ending Monday.
- Evacuations in Northern California: In Santa Clara County, which surrounds San Jose, about 32,000 people were under evacuation orders Monday afternoon, with more likely to be evacuated Tuesday.
- Significant road closures: numerous highways have been closed this week, including parts of the Pacific coast (State Route 1) in southern California, according to authorities. US 101 was closed Tuesday in places like Ventura, about 100 kilometers west of Los Angeles, as receding waters leave a trail of mud. Between Fresno and Shaver Lake, a rockfall — caught on video by police — crashed into State Route 168 Monday, closing that highway.
President Joe Biden approved This Monday a measure to support California’s efforts to respond to the storms that for weeks have hit the state like cascading dominoes.
Flash flooding is likely in and around Los Angeles through this Tuesday afternoon.
And while storm-battered parts of central and northern California will see a respite early Tuesday, it will be short-lived, forecasters say. Another atmospheric river, a long, narrow region in the atmosphere that can carry moisture thousands of kilometers, will arrive from northern California into the Pacific Northwest on Wednesday, the prediction center said.
“When all is said and done, precipitation totals over the next few days will be in the 76-177mm range along the Transverse Range of southern California, north along the central and southern coastal ranges. Northern California and through the Sierra,” the center said.
Swollen rivers, aquatic rescues and extensive damage
Montecito — located between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean in Southern California’s Santa Barbara County — received evacuation orders Monday on the fifth anniversary of a 2018 landslide that killed 23 people when mud and house-sized rocks tore through hillsides, affecting more than 100 homes and rupturing a gas main, according to the state Office of Emergency Services.
Vehicles were driving through flooded streets Monday as water ravaged a nearby creek in Montecito and mud oozed down a hillside, video from Trends Wide affiliate KEYT showed. Roads were affected by rocks, debris and flooding, Santa Barbara city officials reported.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown asked county residents to take shelter Monday night as travel became a nightmare with rockfalls, flooded roads and highway closures.
Santa Barbara County crews have responded to more than 200 incident calls due to heavy rain, according to Capt. Scott Safechuck, a spokesman for a Santa Barbara County incident management team.
About 10 to 15 homes sustained damage due to flooding in the county Monday, according to the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, which released images showing a flooded neighborhood and a sinkhole that developed.
To the north, on the Central Coast, Santa Cruz County suffered widespread damage Monday, according to Cal Fire imagery. The San Lorenzo River rose 4 meters in just over four hours Monday morning as heavy rains hit the region, putting the river in major flood stage.
Rapidly moving water in Santa Cruz toppled a bridge and flooded state parks, video shows.
The National Weather Service reported a “possible levee breach” along the Pajaro River Monday morning and warned of “life-threatening flash flooding.”
Also on the Central Coast, in San Luis Obispo County, authorities urged residents south of the Arroyo Grande Creek levee to evacuate to higher ground immediately Monday night.
The deluge prompted numerous water rescues across the state Monday as rising waters trapped drivers.
Head on a swivel! Damaged infrastructure, flooded roads, downed trees and power lines, and more! There are many hazards right now, with more wind on the way tonight. Please stay home and stay safe! #CaWx #California pic.twitter.com/d0Z6JCTobn
— CAL FIRE CZU (@CALFIRECZZU) January 9, 2023
In southern California, just northwest of Los Angeles, at least 18 people were rescued Monday by the Ventura County Fire Department, including several people who were stranded on an island in the Ventura River, fire officials said. .
Among them were several people who were clinging to tree branches surrounded by floodwaters. Rescue teams helped those people climb a ladder to reach a bridge, according to a report. video tweeted Monday by the fire department.
As the rain intensified Monday night, deputies in Moorpark, Ventura County, worked to rescue stranded drivers on State Route 126, according to the California Highway Patrol. State Route 126 was closed from the Fillmore city limits to Fairview Canyon.
In central California’s Monterey County, the sheriff’s office and the Coast Guard rescued two people and a dog who were trapped by floodwaters, the sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post.
Record rainfall falls across the state
Rains fell Monday night in Southern California, threatening flash flooding and mudslides from Los Angeles to San Diego, especially in areas affected by the fires.
In some areas of downtown Los Angeles between 25 and 76 mm of rain have already fallen, and in the higher areas of the city between 50 and 127 mm as of early Tuesday.
“Almost all of California has recorded well-above-average precipitation totals in recent weeks, with totals 400-600% above average values,” the Weather Service said. “This has resulted in nearly saturated soils and ever-higher river levels.”
As of early Tuesday, downtown Santa Barbara had received 161mm of rain, the wettest day on record for the downtown area.
San Luis Obispo McChesney Field also had its wettest day on record, with daily rainfall of 104mm, surpassing the previous record of 93.4mm. Meanwhile, Moorpark had its second wettest day on record at 102.1mm.
— Rob Shackelford, Raja Razek, Dave Hennen, Camila Bernal, Cheri Mossburg, Dave Alsup, Amanda Jackson and Taylor Ward contributed reporting.