Photo: Canadian Press
In this photo provided by Caltrans District 1, crews work to remove fallen trees blocking U.S. Highway 101 in Humboldt County near Trinidad, Calif., Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023. A major winter storm has approached from California on Wednesday, causing the crew to rush. rainwater from waterways in anticipation of flooding and high winds, as parts of the Midwest faced snow, ice or tornadoes, and the South recovered from a powerful storm surge overnight. (Caltrans District 1 via AP)
California authorities ordered evacuations in a high-risk coastal area where landslides killed 23 people in 2018 when a severe storm swept through the state on Wednesday, bringing high winds and rain that knocked out power and threatened to flood the roads.
California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency to allow for a quick response and help clear up another powerful storm that hit the previous days. The new storm left more than 76,000 customers in the San Francisco Bay Area and nearly 19,000 others along the Central Coast without power. Dozens of flights were canceled from San Francisco, and schools in the suburbs first canceled classes on Thursday.
Authorities have warned residents of Northern California to stay off the roads.
“We expect this to be one of the toughest and most impactful rounds of hurricanes to hit California in the past five years,” said Nancy Ward, new director of the Service Bureau. emergency from the Governor of California.
The storm, which brought strong winds to northern California on Wednesday evening, is one of three so-called atmospheric river storms in the past week that have reached drought status.
In southern California, storm intensity is expected to peak in the evening, with areas of Santa Barbara and Ventura likely to see the heaviest rainfall, meteorologists said.
The first evacuations have been ordered for people living in areas scorched by three recent wildfires in Santa Barbara County, where forecasts of heavy overnight rains could cause widespread flooding and debris flows. County officials did not have an exact figure for the number of people under evacuation orders, but Susan Klein Rothschild, spokeswoman for the county’s emergency operations center, put the number in the hundreds.
Among the towns ordered to be evacuated was the town of Montecito, where five years ago rocks, mud and debris swept up the mountains through the town to the coast, killing 23 people and destroying more than 100 houses. The city is home to many celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey and Prince Harry and his wife, Megan.
“What we’re talking about here is a lot of water going down, going down in streams and streams and as it goes down it gets bigger and that’s the initial danger,” said the Montecito Fire Chief Kevin Taylor.
Elsewhere, the 45-mile (72 kilometer) stretch of Coast Highway 1 that runs through Big Sur was closed Wednesday night in anticipation of flooding and rockfall. To the north, 25 miles (40 kilometers) of Highway 101 was closed because too many trees were felled.
Officials have asked drivers to stay off the road unless absolutely necessary – and to stay informed by signing up for updates from emergency officials about fallen trees, power lines and flooding.
The storm is expected to dump up to 10 inches (25.4 cm) of rain in an area where the hills have become saturated over the past month.
The storms alone will not be enough to officially end the ongoing drought in the state, which is now in its fourth year. The US Drought Monitor shows that large parts of California are experiencing severe to severe drought. Officials say the state’s main reservoir is low and has plenty of room to fill with more water from the storm.
However, the trees have been stressed by years of limited rainfall. Now that the ground is suddenly saturated and the wind is strong, the tree is more likely to fall. That could cause widespread power outages or pose a flood risk, said Carla Nemeth, director of the state Department of Water Resources.
“We are in the middle of a flood emergency and also in the middle of a drought emergency,” he said during an emergency briefing.
The storm came after days of heavy rain on New Year’s Eve, prompting the evacuation of people in rural northern California communities and saving many motorists from flooded roads. Several dams south of Sacramento were damaged. On Wednesday, authorities in southern Sacramento County found a body in a submerged car – one of at least four victims of flooding caused by the storm.
As of Wednesday evening, nine northern California counties are under flood watch or warning.
The evacuation order was in effect in Santa Cruz County’s Paradise Park along the fast-flowing San Lorenzo River, as well as areas along the Pajaro River. Residents fleeing wildfires in the Santa Cruz Mountains in 2020 packed their bags as the towns of Boulder Creek, Ben Lomond and Felton were warned to be ready to evacuate.
Sonoma County officials have issued an evacuation warning along the Russian River.
Meanwhile, the 8,500 sandbags distributed by authorities were not enough to meet demand as meteorologists warned of impending floods.
Robert O’Neill, an insurance broker who lives and works south of San Francisco, said he was lining up to get sandbags for his garage and co-workers’ homes to prepare for the storm .
As president of Town & Country Insurance Services, he gave employees the option to work from home on Wednesdays, which many did, he said. He plans to leave the office early and return home where he has water, food and a duffel bag full of clothes, medicine, electronic chargers and important papers.
“We’re in a big city,” he said, “so we won’t be stuck for too long, but you never know.”
The storm also affected other locations in the United States. In the Midwest, heavy ice and snow this week closed schools in western Minnesota and Wisconsin and swept a jet plane off the runway of an icy taxi after landing in a blizzard in Minneapolis. . Delta Air Lines said no passengers were injured.
To the south, a tornado has the potential to destroy homes, uproot trees and flip a car in Montgomery, Alabama early Wednesday.
In Illinois, staff from the Chicago office of the National Weather Service plan to investigate storm damage Wednesday after at least six tornadoes, the highest number of January tornadoes recorded in the state since 1989.
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