The latest in a relentless series of storms slammed into California on Monday, swamping roads, battering shorelines with heavy surf, turning rivers into flood zones and forcing the evacuation of thousands of people in cities hit by deadly landslides. At least 14 people are believed to have died in the storm.
The National Weather Service said the rain is expected to continue into Tuesday after dropping up to 14 inches in high elevations in central and southern California. A few days after the brief respite, another storm is expected to hit the state, adding to the misery and further saturating areas already at risk of flooding and debris.
The storms left chaotic roads, threatened coastal and riverside towns and left tens of thousands without power. The weather service has issued a flood watch through Tuesday for the entire San Francisco Bay Area, as well as the Sacramento Valley and Monterey Bay. In areas affected by forest fires in recent years, there is a possibility of mud and debris sliding from charred slopes that have not yet fully recovered their protective layer of vegetation.
“Additional heavy rain on Tuesday will add to the ongoing flooding and maintain the risk of flash flooding and mudslides, especially in regions with recent burns,” the weather service said.
Forecasters also warned that southwestern California could see winds gusting to 60 mph at the storm’s peak, while some areas could see as much as half an inch of rain per hour.
Not only that, but the weather service warned of a “relentless parade of atmospheric rivers” — long columns of moisture stretching toward the Pacific Ocean that could bring staggering amounts of rain and snow.
The death toll from a relentless series of storms that began last week rose from 12 to 14 on Monday when two people, including a homeless man, were killed by falling trees, state officials said.
California state highway officials said late Monday that some U.S. and state highways were closed due to flooding, mudslides, heavy snow, or car and truck crashes. The closures included the northbound lanes of US 101, a key coastal route, as well as sections of US 6 and State Route 168.
The drama unfolded across the country.
In Santa Cruz County, evacuation orders were issued for about 32,000 residents living near rain-swollen rivers and streams. The San Lorenzo River was declared at flood stage, and drone footage showed scores of homes standing in murky brown water with the top halves of cars peeking out.
A 5-year-old boy is missing after Monday’s flooding on the Central Coast. The boy’s mother was driving the truck when it ended up in floodwaters near Paso Robles. Bystanders were able to free her, but the boy was dragged out of the truck and possibly into the river, said Tom Swenson, assistant chief of the California/San Luis Obispo County Fire Department.
A roughly seven-hour search for the missing boy turned up only his shoe before it was called off because water levels became 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. He told CBS News officials will reassess weather conditions to see when they can resume the search.
Also in San Luis Obispo County, the sheriff’s office confirmed to CBS News that a driver died in flooding in Avila Beach on Monday.
About 130 miles to the south, about 10,000 people were ordered to evacuate in Santa Barbara County.
The National Guard was on standby in Wilton due to flooding concerns, This is reported by CBS Sacramento.
California Highway Patrol office in Fresno tweeted video of Monday’s rockfall on State Highway 168:
The entire seaside community of Montecito – home to Prince Harry, Oprah Winfrey and other celebrities – has been ordered to flee on its fifth anniversary a landslide that killed 23 people and destroyed more than 100 houses in a coastal enclave.
County officials ordered the evacuation of 20 homes in the Orcutt area after the flooding, and about 15 homes were damaged by the channel.
Jamie McLeod’s property was under an evacuation order in Montecito, but she said there was no way she could “get off the mountain” with a raging creek 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 his weekly food delivery and also got stuck.
McLeod said she was lucky because her home is on high ground and the power is still on. But she is growing weary of frequent evacuation orders after a massive wildfire followed by a deadly landslide five years ago.
“Moving is not easy,” McLeod said. “I really like it, except for the disaster.”
Ellen DeGeneres posted a video on Instagram of herself standing in front of a raging creek outside 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 were on high ground.
“It’s crazy,” the hoodie-and-cloaked talk show host says in the video.
A few miles up the coast, another town, La Conchita in Ventura County, was ordered to evacuate. In 2005, a landslide killed 10 people there.
A PG&E liner caught a video of the landslide in the Santa Cruz Mountains on Monday:
In Ventura County, the Ventura River reached its highest level on record at more than 25 feet. Firefighters using helicopters rescued 18 people who were trapped on an island in stormy waters:
The storm also washed 3 feet of mud and rock onto State Highway 126, stranding a long line of cars and trucks. Crews worked through the night to free them.
In Los Angeles, water swallowed two cars in the Chatsworth area on Monday night. This is reported by CBS Los Angeles. Two people escaped on their own, and firefighters rescued two others who suffered minor injuries, authorities said.
A mudslide sent up to five feet of mud down onto nearby streets in Studio City, Los Angeles, according to the fire department.
Tens of thousands of homes and businesses were without power, including about 17,000 late Monday night in the Sacramento area. The number of customers without service was down from more than 350,000 a day earlier after 60 mph gusts knocked down towering trees on power lines, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District said.
On Monday, President Biden declared a state of emergency to support storm response and relief efforts in more than a dozen counties.
Much of California is still in severe and extreme drought, although storms have helped fill depleted reservoirs.