Rain-weary Californians battled flooding and mudslides Monday as the latest in a series of powerful stormswhich led to widespread evacuations, downed trees and frustrating motorists who hit roadblocks caused by fallen debris.
Tens of thousands of people remained without power, and some schools closed for the day.
An evacuation order for the entire community of Montecito and surrounding canyons scarred by recent wildfires came on the fifth anniversary of a landslide that killed 23 people and destroyed more than 100 homes in the coastal enclave.
The National Weather Service reported that at least 8 inches of rain fell in 12 hours, with several more inches to come before the latest storm system moves through the area with roads winding through forested hillsides dotted with large homes. Sandwiched between mountains and the Pacific Ocean, exclusive Montecito is home to celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Rob Lowe and Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said the decision to evacuate nearly 10,000 people was “based on the continued high rate of rainfall with no indication that it is going to change before nightfall.” Creeks were overflowing, and many roads were flooded, he said.
Northbound lanes of US 101, a major coastal route, were closed, along with several other freeways and local roads.
Up the coast, evacuation orders were issued in coastal, forested Santa Cruz County for about 32,000 residents living near rain-soaked rivers and streams, said Melodye Serino, deputy county sheriff. The San Lorenzo River was declared flood stage, and video on social media showed a neighborhood flooded with muddy water flowing up to a stop sign.
A large, muddy slide blocked both lanes of southbound Highway 17, an important but windy route into Santa Cruz from the San Francisco Bay Area. Vehicles were turned back on top as crews arrived to clean up.
Despite the deadly nature of storms, which have killed at least a dozen people, residents of tiny, flooded Felton remained calm and upbeat.
Christine Patracuola, the owner of Rocky’s Cafe for 25 years, handed out free coffee to customers whose homes were without power Monday. Her staff could not enter due to road closures, including a bridge over the San Lorenzo.
“A little coffee can’t hurt anybody,” she said. “You can’t really change Mother Nature; you just have to roll with the punches and hope you don’t get swept up in it.”
Nicole Martin, third-generation owner of Fern River Resort in Felton, said Monday that her customers were sipping coffee, sitting on cabin porches among towering redwood trees and “enjoying the show” as picnic tables and other debris floated down the swollen San. Lorenzo.
The river is usually about 18 meters below the cabins, Martin said, but it crept up to 4 meters from the cabins. Still, Martin said she wasn’t worried — her family has owned the property for about 60 years, and her grandfather checked out the conditions Monday and shrugged it off.
The resort prepared by providing about 8,000 pounds of sandbags, readying generators and handing out lanterns to guests who chose to weather the storm in their cabins.
In Northern California, several districts closed schools. More than 35,000 customers remained without power in Sacramento, down from more than 350,000 a day earlier after 97 mph wind gusts knocked majestic trees into power lines, according to the Sacramento Municipal Utility District.
The National Weather Service warned of a “” — long bursts of moisture stretching into the Pacific Ocean that can drop dizzying amounts of rain and snow. The precipitation expected over the next couple of days comes after storms last week knocked out power to thousands, flooded streets and battered the coastline.
President Joe Biden issued an emergency declaration Monday to support storm response and relief efforts in more than a dozen counties, including Sacramento, Santa Cruz and Los Angeles.
Governor Gavin Newsom said 12 people had died as a result of severe weather over the past 10 days, and he warned that this week’s storms could be even more dangerous and urged people to stay home.
The first of the latest, more powerful storms prompted the weather service to issue 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 area, the foothills .
In the Los Angeles area, there was the potential for as much as 8 inches of rain in the foothills late Monday and Tuesday. High surf was also expected on west-facing beaches.
Since Dec. 26, San Francisco has received more than 10 inches of rain, while Mammoth Mountain, a popular ski area in the eastern Sierra Nevada, has received nearly 10 feet of snow, the National Weather Service said.
The storms won’t be enough to officially end California’s drought, but they have helped.
Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, expects a break in the rain after January 18.
“That’s my best guess right now, which is good because it will give the rivers in Northern California, and now in Central California, a chance to come down,” he said.