People carrying their belongs arrive at an evacuation center in Santa Barbara, Calif., Monday, Jan. 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Ns News Online Desk: LOS ANGELES (AP) — The latest in a relentless string of storms slammed California on Monday, swamping roads, battering coastlines with high surf, turning rivers into gushing flood zones and forcing the evacuation of thousands in towns with histories of deadly mudslides.
The National Weather Service said rain was expected to continue through Tuesday after dumping up to 14 inches (35.5 centimeters) at higher elevations in central and Southern California. After a brief respite, another storm was expected to barrel into the state in a few days, adding to the misery and further saturating areas already at threat of flooding and debris flows.
The storms left a legacy of chaotic roads, threatened coastal and riverside towns and left tens of thousands without power. The weather service issued a flood watch through Tuesday for the entire San Francisco Bay Area, along with Sacramento Valley and Monterey Bay.
Areas hit by wildfires in recent years faced the possibility of mud and debris slewing off denuded hillsides that have yet to fully recover their protective layer of vegetation. “Additional heavy rains on Tuesday will exacerbate ongoing flooding and continue the risk of flash flooding and mudslides, especially across recent burn scar regions,” the weather service said.
Forecasters also warned southwestern California could see 60-mph (97-kph) wind gusts at the peak of the storm, while some areas could receive rainfall of a half-inch (12.7 millimeters) per hour.
The death toll from the relentless string of storms that began last week climbed from 12 to 14 on Monday, after two people including a homeless person were killed by falling trees, state officials said.
California state highway authorities said late Monday night that parts of U.S. and state highways were closed because of flooding, mud or rock slides, heavy snow or car spin outs and truck crashes. The closures included northbound lanes of U.S. 101, a key coastal route, and sections of U.S. 6 and State Route 168.
Evacuation orders were issued in Santa Cruz County for about 32,000 residents living near rain-swollen rivers and creeks. The San Lorenzo River was declared at flood stage and drone footage showed numerous homes sitting in muddy brown water, the top halves of autos peeking out.
The entire seaside community of Montecito — home to Prince Harry, Oprah Winfrey and other celebrities — was ordered to flee on the fifth anniversary of a mudslide that killed 23 people and destroyed more than 100 homes in the coastal enclave.
County officials ordered 20 homes evacuated in the area of Orcutt after flooding and a sinkhole damaged up to 15 homes.
Jamie McLeod’s property was under the Montecito evacuation order, but she said there was no way for her to “get off the mountain” with a rushing creek on one side and a mudslide 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 became stuck.
McLeod said she feels fortunate because her home sits on high ground and the power is still on. But she tires of the frequent evacuation orders since the massive wildfire followed by the deadly landslide five years ago.
“It is not easy to relocate,” McLeod said. “I totally love it, except in catastrophe.”
By Associated Press