California faces floods, mudslides as powerful storms wallop the state
(NEXSTAR) – Tens of thousands of Californians remain without power Monday as residents face flooding and mudslides as the latest in a series of powerful storms walloped the state.
Evacuation orders were issued for those living in and around the city of Montecito in Santa Barbara County, Nexstar’s KTLA reports. The area, scarred by recent wildfires, received nearly six inches of rain over 12 hours, according to the National Weather Service.
Parts of El Dorado, Sacramento, and Ventura counties were also placed under mandatory evacuation orders Monday.
In Ventura County, more than a dozen people were rescued from a homeless encampment near the Ventura River after heavy rains soaked the region. None needed to be transported to the hospital, Ventura Fire Department officials told KTLA.
At least 14 deaths have been confirmed in connection to these storms, including a 5-year-old boy who was swept away by floodwaters in San Luis Obispo County. The search for the boy was called off Monday afternoon because of the current and rising water levels of the nearby Salinas River.
In Sacramento, three people – two of which were in tents – died after trees fell on them, Nexstar’s KTXL reports. A man in the nearby Mendocino County died in a traffic accident while helping with storm cleanup over the weekend.
In addition to widespread rain, Californians face strong winds, mudslides, and even a potential tornado, according to the NWS.
In Northern California, several districts closed schools while the California Highway Patrol shared video of large boulders skidding down hillsides to block state roads.
Northbound lanes of U.S. 101, a key coastal route, were closed, along with several other highways and local roads. A large, muddy slide blocked both lanes of southbound Highway 17, a key but windy route into Santa Cruz from the San Francisco Bay Area. Vehicles were turned back at the summit as crews arrived to clean up.
The National Weather Service warned of a “relentless parade of atmospheric rivers” — long plumes of moisture stretching out into the Pacific that can drop staggering amounts of rain and snow. The precipitation expected over the next couple of days comes after storms last week knocked out power to thousands, flooded streets, and battered the coastline.
President Joe Biden issued an emergency declaration Monday to support storm response and relief efforts in more than a dozen counties, including Sacramento, Santa Cruz and Los Angeles.
The first of the newest, heavier storms prompted the weather service to issue a flood watch for a large portion of Northern and Central California, with 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 centimeters) of rain expected through Wednesday in the already saturated Sacramento-area foothills.
The storms won’t be enough to officially end California’s drought, but they have helped.
Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, expects a break in the rain after Jan. 18.
“That is my best guess right now, which is good because it will give the rivers in Northern California, and now in Central California, a chance to come down,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.