California deluge forces mass evacuations, boy swept | lifestyle

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A 5-year-old boy was swept away by flooding on the state’s central coast Monday and an entire seaside community home to Prince Harry, Oprah Winfrey and other celebrities was ordered off as another powerful storm swept through California. to the evacuation on the fifth anniversary of the deadly mudslides there.

Tens of thousands of people were left without power and some schools closed for the day. Streets and highways turned into gushing rivers, trees felled, mud slid and motorists snarled as they hit roadblocks caused by fallen debris. The death toll from a relentless series of storms rose from 12 to 14 on Monday after falling trees killed two people, state officials said.

A roughly seven-hour search for the missing boy turned up only his shoe before officials called it off because the water level was too dangerous for divers, officials said. The boy has not been pronounced dead, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tony Cipolla said.

The boy’s mother was driving the truck when it got stuck in floodwaters just before 8 a.m. near Paso Robles, a small city inland from California’s central coast, according to Cal Fire/San Luis Obispo County Assistant Chief Tom Swanson.

Bystanders were able to pull the mother from the truck, but the boy was swept from the vehicle and downstream, possibly into the river, Swanson said. No evacuation orders were issued for the area at the time.

About 130 miles (209 kilometers) south, the entire community of Montecito and surrounding canyons scarred by recent wildfires were under an evacuation order that came on the fifth anniversary of a mudslide that killed 23 people and destroyed more than 100 coastal homes. enclave.

The National Weather Service reported rainfall rates of one inch (2.5 centimeters) an hour, with heavy downpours expected throughout the night in the upscale area, where roads wind along wooded hillsides dotted with large homes. Sandwiched between the mountains and the Pacific, Montecito is home to celebrities including Rob Lowe and Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

Ellen DeGeneres shared a video on Instagram of herself standing in front of a raging creek near the Montecito home where she lives with her wife, actor Portia de Rossi. She said in the post that they were told to take cover in place because they were on high ground.

“That’s crazy!” the talk show host in a sweatshirt and raincoat says in the video. “This stream next to our house never flows, never. It’s probably about nine feet and it’s going to go up another two feet.”

Jamie McLeod’s property was under an evacuation order from Montecito, but she said there was no way to get off the mountain with a creek on one side and a mudslide on the other. The 60-year-old owner of a bird sanctuary in Santa Barbara said one of her employees came to deliver food weekly and also got stuck.

McLeod said she feels lucky because her house is on high ground and the power is still on. But she said she was tired of frequent evacuation orders since a massive wildfire followed by a deadly landslide five years ago.

“It’s not easy to relocate,” McLeod said. “I absolutely love it – except for the disaster.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said the decision to evacuate nearly 10,000 people was “based on continued high rainfall with no indication of that changing before nightfall.” Streams overflowed and many roads were flooded.

The northbound lanes of US 101, a key coastal route, were expected to be closed until Tuesday. Many other highways and local roads were closed due to rock slides and flooding.

On the coast, evacuation orders were issued in Santa Cruz County for about 32,000 residents living near rain-swollen rivers and streams. The San Lorenzo River was declared flood stage and drone footage showed numerous homes sitting in muddy brown water with the top halves of cars peeking out.

Maria Cucchiara, who lives in tiny, flooded Felton, went for a walk to count her blessings after “a huge branch harpooned” the roof of her small studio, she said.

“I have two kitties and we could have been killed. It was over a ton,” she said. “Needless to say, it was very disturbing.

Nicole Martin, owner of Fern River Resort in Felton, described a more relaxed scene Monday. Her clients sipped coffee among the towering redwoods and “enjoyed the show,” she said, as picnic tables and other debris drifted across the swollen San Lorenzo.

The river is usually about 60 feet (18 meters) below the cabins, Martin said, but it crept up to 12 feet (4 meters) from the cabins.

In Northern California, several neighborhoods closed schools and more than 35,000 customers were without power in Sacramento — up from more than 350,000 a day earlier after 60 mph (97 km/h) gusts knocked towering trees onto power lines, according to Sacramento Municipal Utility District. . Among the new deaths reported Monday was a homeless man killed by a falling tree in the region.

The National Weather Service warned of a “relentless parade of atmospheric rivers” — long plumes of moisture stretching into the Pacific that can dump staggering amounts of rain and snow. The rainfall expected over the next few days comes after storms last week knocked out power, flooded streets and damaged coastlines.

President Joe Biden issued an emergency declaration Monday to support the storm response and relief efforts in more than a dozen counties.

The weather service has issued a flash flood watch 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 foothills.

The Los Angeles area saw the potential for up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) of rain in the foothills on Monday and Tuesday. A high surf was also expected.

Much of California remains in severe to extreme drought, even as the storms helped refill depleted reservoirs.

Associated Press reporters Janie Har and Olga R. Rodriguez in San Francisco, Amy Taxin in Orange County, Nic Coury in Aptos, Martha Mendoza in Santa Cruz and Haven Daley in Felton contributed to this report.

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