California was hit by yet another powerful storm, a 5-year-old boy was swept away by flooding on the state’s central coast on Monday, and the entire seaside community home to Prince Harry, Oprah Winfrey and other celebrities was ordered to evacuate on the fifth anniversary of the deadly mudslides there.
Tens of thousands of people were left without electricity, and some schools were closed for the day. Streets and highways turned into raging rivers, trees fell, mud slid, and motorists screeched as they ran into roadblocks created by the debris. The death toll from a relentless series of storms rose from 12 to 14 on Monday after two people were killed by falling trees, state officials said.
A roughly seven-hour search for the missing boy turned up only his shoe before officials called off the search because the water level was too dangerous for divers, officials said. The boy has not been pronounced dead, said spokesman Tony Cipalo of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office.
The rescue team “will reassess the weather conditions to see if they can resume the search,” Cipolla added.
The boy’s mother was driving the white pickup truck when it ended up in floodwaters shortly before 8 a.m. near Paso Robles, according to Tom Swanson, assistant chief of the California/San Luis Obispo County Fire Department.
Bystanders were able to pull the mother from the truck, but the boy was dragged from the car and carried downstream, Swanson said. There was no evacuation order in the area at the time. Firefighters recovered one of the boy’s shoes, but crews still hadn’t found the child more than five hours later.
Meanwhile, south of Paso Robles, the entire community of Montecito and surrounding canyons damaged by recent wildfires were ordered to evacuate on the fifth anniversary of a landslide that killed 23 people and destroyed more than 100 homes in the coastal enclave.
The National Weather Service said at least 8 inches (20 centimeters) of rain had fallen in 12 hours and several more inches were forecast before the latest storm system passed through the area, with roads winding through wooded hillsides lined with large homes. Upscale Montecito is nestled between the mountains and the Pacific Ocean and is home to celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, Rob Lowe, Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said the decision to evacuate nearly 10,000 people was “based on continued high rainfall rates with no signs of that changing overnight.” Creeks overflowed and many roads were flooded, he said.
Santa Barbara County announced Monday night that all public schools will be closed Tuesday.
The northbound lanes of US 101, a key coastal route, were closed, along with several other highways and local roads.
On the coast, evacuation orders were issued in coastal, forested Santa Cruz County for about 32,000 residents who live near rain-swollen rivers and streams, said Melody Serina, deputy county administrator. The San Lorenzo River was declared at flood stage, and videos on social media showed neighborhoods flooded with murky water rising to a stop sign.
A large mud slide blocked both lanes of southbound Highway 17, a key but windy route into Santa Cruz from the San Francisco Bay Area. The vehicles were returned to the summit as cleanup crews arrived.
Another landslide also hit SR-9 and Holiday Lane, blocking the roadway. California Highway Patrol Santa Cruz warned drivers in a tweet to avoid the area.
California Highway Patrol office in Fresno on Monday tweeted video of a rock slide on State Highway 168. Highway 168 has been closed from the bottom of the four-lane roadway between Auberry Road and Lodge Road, CBS Bay Area reported.
“Avoid trips to Shaver Lake and above if possible!” CHP Fresno has been alerted.
Despite the deadly nature of the storms, which killed at least a dozen people, residents of tiny flooded Felton remained calm and upbeat.
Christine Patraquolo, owner of Rocky’s Cafe for 25 years, was handing out free coffee to customers whose homes were without power Monday. Her staff was unable to arrive due to road closures, including the San Lorenzo Bridge.
“A little coffee never hurt anyone,” she said. “You can’t really change Mother Nature; you just have to roll with the punches and hope you don’t get pulled into it.”
Nicole Martin, third-generation owner of the Fern River Resort in Felton, said Monday that her customers were sipping coffee, sitting on porches among the tall redwoods and “enjoying the show” as picnic tables and other debris floated down the swollen San Lorenzo.
The river is usually about 60 feet (18 meters) below the cabins, Martin said, but it crept up to within 12 feet (4 meters) of the cabins. Still, Martin said she’s not worried — her family has owned the property for about 60 years, and her grandfather looked over the conditions Monday and shrugged it off.
The resort prepared by getting about 8,000 pounds of sandbags, preparing generators and handing out lanterns to guests who chose to ride out the storm in their cabins.
In Northern California, several districts closed schools. More than 35,000 customers were without power in Sacramento, down from more than 350,000 a day earlier, after 60 mph (97 kph) gusts knocked down towering trees on power lines, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District said.
The National Weather Service has warned of “an inexorable parade of atmospheric rivers“— long plumes of moisture stretching toward the Pacific Ocean that can bring staggering amounts of rain and snow. The precipitation expected over the next couple of days follows last week’s storms that knocked out power to thousands, flooded streets and destroyed the coastline.
On Monday, President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency to support storm response and relief efforts in more than a dozen counties, including Sacramento, Santa Cruz and Los Angeles.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said 12 people had died in severe weather over the past 10 days, and he warned that this week’s storms could be even more dangerous and urged people to stay indoors.
The first of the latest, stronger storms prompted the weather service to issue a flash flood warning for much 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.
In the Los Angeles area, up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) of rain could fall in the foothills Monday night and Tuesday. High surf was also expected on the western beaches.
In Southern California, more than a dozen people were rescued from an island in the Ventura River that was hit by flash flooding.
The Ventura County Fire Department is divided personnel several operational water rescue teams helping a large group of stranded people. A total of 18 victims were rescued: seven by stairs, seven by air and four were able to get out, firemen said.
One person required medical treatment for minor injuries, officials said.
San Francisco has received more than 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rain since Dec. 26, while Mammoth Mountain, a popular ski area in the Eastern Sierra Nevada, has received nearly 10 feet (3 meters) of snow, the National Weather Service said. i
The storms won’t be enough to officially end California’s drought, but they helped.
Daniel Swain, a climatologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, expects a break in the rain after January 18.
“That’s my best guess at this point, and that’s a good thing because it’s going to give the rivers in Northern California, and now Central California, a chance to go down,” he said.