‘A very significant emergency’: California’s deadly and record-breaking storms are about to have a booster


The historic storms that devastated much of California turned entire neighborhoods into lakes, dumped sewage into floodwaters and killed at least 17 people.

And there is more to come. About 5 million people are under flood watch Wednesday as another atmospheric river brings more rain to California.

“The state has had drought for four years, and now we have storm after storm,” California Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis said Wednesday.

“We’ve had six storms in the past two weeks. That’s the kind of time you’d get in a year and we compressed it into just two weeks.

Wednesday’s flood watches are mostly in northern and central California, including Sacramento, North Bay and Redding. That barely leaves residents of flood-ravaged neighborhoods enough time to assess the devastation before the next storm.

“It’s just brown water everywhere. And it’s rushing — it was going fast,” said Fenton Grove resident Caitlin Clancy.

“We had a canoe tied up, and we thought if we needed to, we could canoe out. But it was going too fast. »

The onslaught of recent storms came from a parade of atmospheric rivers – long, narrow regions of the atmosphere that can carry moisture for thousands of miles.

“We had five atmospheric rivers in California in two weeks,” Kounalakis said.

“Everything is wet. Everything is saturated. Everything is at breaking point, and there’s more rain to come.

In fact, four more atmospheric rivers are expected to hit California over the next 10 days.

Residents scramble to collect their belongings on Wednesday before the waters rise in Merced, California.

Here’s what awaits us as another round of ferocious weather barrels pound the West Coast:

• Parts of the central and northern California coast are again inundated with heavy rain on Wednesday. Showers are expected to intensify and exceed half an inch of rain per hour by afternoon, according to the Weather Prediction Center.

• Rainfall totals through early Wednesday afternoon could range from 1 to 3 inches. The highest accumulations are expected in the North Bay and Santa Cruz Mountains, and further flooding could occur.

• Rain will move north to the Oregon and Washington coasts starting Wednesday afternoon, giving central California a brief rain break.

• Precipitation will also push inland to the Sierra Nevada on Wednesday afternoon, dumping up to 10 inches of snow.

• The heaviest rains over the next seven days are expected in northern California, where the National Weather Service predicts an additional 5 to 10 inches.

San Luis Obispo County rescue crews are scrambling to locate 5-year-old Kyle Doan, who was carried away by a truck near the Salinas River on Monday morning.

Kyle Doan, 5, was last seen Monday in San Miguel, San Luis Obispo County.

Search efforts resumed Tuesday after being suspended Monday due to weather conditions that were too dangerous for first responders, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office said.

“Conditions, however, remain extremely dangerous,” the sheriff’s office said Tuesday. “The water level is high and continues to move rapidly.”

The sheriff’s office urged the public to leave the search operation to the professionals to avoid the risk of volunteers needing to be rescued themselves.

As another storm looms, many residents are still grappling with the devastation in their communities.

Rachel Oliviera used a shovel to try to clear away some of the floodwater and thick mud enveloping her Felton Grove home.

“It’s backbreaking work,” Oliviera said, visibly moved.

But she was more concerned about her neighbors, whose homes were also covered in thick mud.

“A lot of us who live here in the neighborhood are elderly and physically can’t do the cleaning.”

In the Chatsworth neighborhood of Los Angeles, several people had to be rescued after a sinkhole swallowed two vehicles on Tuesday. In Malibu, a huge rock crashed down, closing a key road.

In parts of Santa Barbara County, “the storm caused outflows in the sewer system to exceed capacity, causing sewage to be released from the system onto the street,” said Jason Johnston, a environmental health overseeing the county, Monday evening.

The local health department has warned that the water could increase the risk of disease.

Another sinkhole was reported Monday in Santa Maria, Santa Barbara County, where 20 homes were evacuated, CNN affiliate KEYT reported.

“The storms hit us like a water balloon exploding and spilling water into our rivers and streams. So there was this excessive amount of flooding – it’s the cycles over and over” , Santa Cruz County spokesman Jason Hoppin told CNN.

Hoppin said 131 homes in the county suffered significant damage but could be salvaged, while five others are not salvageable.

Recent storms turned deadly after trees crashed into houses and cars, rocks and mud ripped down hills and floodwaters rose rapidly.

At least 17 people have died in California storms in the past two weeks alone.

“That’s more than we’ve lost in the last two years of wildfires,” the lieutenant governor said. “So this is a very important emergency.”

Rebekah Rohde, 40, and Steven Sorensen, 61, were both found “with trees atop their tents” over the weekend, the Sacramento County coroner said. Both were homeless, according to the statement.

In the San Joaquin Valley, a tree fell on a pickup truck on State Route 99 in Visalia on Tuesday, killing the driver. A motorcyclist also died after hitting the tree, the California Highway Patrol said.

Another driver died Monday after entering a flooded road in Avila Beach, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office said.

“It only takes six inches of water to lose control of a car that gets knocked down. In 12 inches the cars start to float,” Kounalakis said this week.

“You’ve heard the streams have risen 14 feet just in the last day and in some areas we’ve had over a foot of rain – just in the last 48 hours. So that’s amazing. »

Rescue teams are helping stranded residents Tuesday in Merced, Calif.

While none of the upcoming storms individually are expected to have as much impact as the most recent ones, the cumulative effect could be significant in a state where much of the ground is already too saturated to absorb more rain.

And the state’s ongoing drought has parched the landscape so much that the ground struggles to absorb incoming rainfall, which can lead to dangerous flash floods.

Scientists have warned that the climate crisis is having a significant effect on California’s climate, increasing oscillations between extreme drought and extreme rain.


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