The latest in a series of relentless storms hit California on Monday, flooding roads, lashing coastlines with high waves, turning rivers into flood zones and forcing the evacuation of thousands of cities with a history of deadly mudslides. The storms are responsible for the deaths of at least 14 people.
The National Weather Service said rain is expected to continue into Tuesday after dropping up to 14 inches at higher elevations in central and southern California. After a brief respite, another storm was expected to hit the state in a few days, adding to the misery and further saturating areas already at risk of flooding and debris flow.
The storms left chaotic roads behind, threatened coastal and riverside towns, and left tens of thousands of people without power. The weather service issued a flood alert on Tuesday for the entire San Francisco Bay Area, along with the Sacramento Valley and Monterey Bay. Areas affected by wildfires in recent years have faced the possibility of sliding mud and debris off scorched slopes that have yet to fully recover the protective layer of vegetation.
“Additional heavy rains on Tuesday will exacerbate ongoing flooding and maintain the risk of flash floods and mudslides, especially in regions with burn scars,” the weather service said.
Forecasters also warned that southwestern California could experience wind gusts of 60 mph at the height of the storm, while some areas could receive up to half an inch of rain per hour.
Not only that, but the weather service warned of a “constant parade of atmospheric rivers” – long streaks of moisture stretching into the Pacific that can dump staggering amounts of rain and snow.
The death toll from the relentless string 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.
The California State Highway Authority said late Monday night that parts of U.S. and state highways were closed due to flooding, mud or rock avalanches, heavy snow, or car and truck accidents. The closures included the northern lanes of US 101, a key coastal route, and sections of US 6 and State Route 168.
The drama unfolded across the state.
Evacuation orders were issued in Santa Cruz County for approximately 32,000 residents living near flooded rivers and streams. The San Lorenzo River was declared flooded, and drone footage showed numerous houses standing in muddy brown water with the top halves of cars sticking out of them.
A 5-year-old boy disappeared Monday in floodwaters off the central coast. The boy’s mother was driving a truck when it became stuck in flood waters near Paso Robles. Bystanders were able to free her, but the boy was swept off the truck and carried, possibly into the river, said Tom Swanson, Cal Fire/San Luis Obispo County Deputy Fire Chief.
An approximately seven-hour search for the missing boy only revealed his boot before they were suspended because water levels became too dangerous for divers, officials said. The boy was not pronounced dead, spokesman Tony Cipolla of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office said. He said CBS News officials would reassess weather conditions to see when they could resume their search.
Also in San Luis Obispo County, the sheriff’s office confirmed to CBS News that a driver was killed in flooding in Avila Beach on Monday.
About 130 miles south in Santa Barbara County, about 10,000 people were ordered to evacuate.
The National Guard was on standby in Wilton due to flood concerns,.
California Highway Patrol Fresno office tweeted video of Monday’s rock avalanche on State Highway 168:
The entire coastal community of Montecito – home to Prince Harry, Oprah Winfrey and other celebrities – was ordered to flee on its fifth anniversaryin a coastal enclave.
County officials ordered the evacuation of 20 homes in the Orcutt area after flooding and a sinkhole damaged up to 15 homes.
Jamie McLeod’s property was under an evacuation order from Montecito, but said there was no way to “go downstairs” with a rushing stream 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 do her weekly food delivery and also got stuck.
McLeod said she felt lucky because her home was on a hill and the electricity was still on. But it has had enough of frequent evacuation orders since a massive fire followed by a deadly landslide five years ago.
“The transition is not easy,” said McLeod. “I totally love it, except for the disaster.”
Ellen DeGeneres shared a video on Instagram of herself standing in front of a raging stream near the Montecito home where she lives with her wife, actress Portia de Rossi. She said in the post that they were told to take shelter in the place because they are on an elevation.
“It’s crazy,” the talk show host says in the video, wearing a hoodie and raincoat.
A few miles down the coast, another town, La Conchita in Ventura County, was ordered to evacuate. In 2005, a mudslide killed 10 people there.
On Monday in the Santa Cruz Mountains, a PG&E lineman captured a mudslide on video:
In Ventura County, the Ventura River reached an all-time high of over 25 feet. Firefighters using helicopters rescued 18 people trapped on an island in flooded waters:
The storm also washed away 3 feet of mud and rock on State Highway 126, getting stuck in a long line of cars and big-rig trucks. Crews worked into the night to free them.
In Los Angeles, a sinkhole claimed two cars in the Chatsworth area on Monday night.. Two people escaped alone, while firefighters rescued two others who suffered minor injuries, authorities said.
The mudslide sent up to five feet of mud down neighboring streets in Studio City, Los Angeles, the fire department said.
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 services fell from more than 350,000 the day before after gusts of 60 mph winds toppled majestic trees onto power lines, the Sacramento Municipal District reported.
President Biden issued an emergency statement Monday to support storm response and relief efforts in more than a dozen counties.
Much of California remains in severe or extreme drought, although storms have helped fill depleted reservoirs.