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California storm: Power outages and mudslides as deadly flooding sweeps through waterlogged state

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Deadly California storm prompts evacuations
Evacuations ordered as deadly storm hits California 03:06

Power outages, school closures, mudslides, flooding, evacuations — the fifth in a parade of deadly storms driven by atmospheric rivers is hitting California, and residents and officials are struggling to cope with the deluge of water. Across the state, residents faced continued weather warnings and advisories Tuesday.

National Weather Service forecasters warned of "torrential rain, widespread flooding, rapid water rises, mudslides and landslides with possible debris flows, heavy mountain snow and gusty high winds," as some communities saw as much as a foot of rain. Rainfall totals across the state over the past several weeks were 400-600% above average, according to the service. 

The service's Sacramento office warned of possible funnel clouds and brief tornadoes as thunderstorms moved through the region Tuesday afternoon, while its Los Angeles office reported an inch of rain per hour in the area.

Flooded neighborhood in Merced, California
This aerial view shows a flooded neighborhood in Merced, California on January 10, 2023. JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images

And meteorologists warned that another storm is already on its way.

"The core of the system will slam onshore with moderate to heavy rain resuming across much of California today through tonight while several more feet of snow is possible along the Sierra Nevada," the weather service said, with another atmospheric river headed to Northern California on Wednesday.

 

Levee breaches prompt evacuation orders in Monterey County

Several private levees in Monterey County have been breached, prompting evacuation orders from the Monterey County Sheriff's Office.

The levees were privately owned and are not maintained by the county, CBS San Francisco reported.

By Jordan Freiman
 

PG&E deploys more than 5,000 workers to deal with outages

To cope with widespread damage to its power grid, more than 5,000 PG&E workers were responding to storm-related issues, including crews brought in from Southern California, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Colorado, Washington, Wisconsin and Canada, CBS San Francisco reported.

"This is the largest response effort PG&E has ever assembled for a winter storm event," PG&E COO Adam Wright said. 

 

Residents of Matilija Canyon cut off by mudslides

Mudslides in remote Matilija Canyon buried one house completely and cut off the only road to nearby Ojai.  

"We're all stuck out here," said Brian Briggs.

Briggs described a scary night when the canyon creek began to flood people's yards and the surrounding hills — stripped of vegetation in the 2017 Thomas Fire — began to tumble down in the dark.

Mudflows dragged sheds, gazebos and outhouses into the creek, he said. After helping neighbors get to higher ground, he returned home to find his fence destroyed by waist-deep mud.

A helicopter dropped 10 sheriff's deputies Tuesday to help the residents of dozens of homes in the canyon and Briggs said he was hoping to be airlifted out.  

By The Associated Press
 

Solano County issues local emergency proclamation

Solano County has issued a local emergency proclamation.

The Solano County Sheriff's Office said that the severe weather has led to downed trees and utilities, which have caused power losses and road closures.

 "We continue to experience flooding of roadways and widespread outages and will have rain throughout the rest of the week with another atmospheric river by late Friday, January 13, into next week," the sheriff's office said in a statement on Tuesday. "Soil conditions remain saturated and additional rains will increase the likelihood of further damage throughout the county. There is no estimated cost of damage currently and damage assessments are on-going."

By Gina Martinez
 

Trillions of gallons of water predicted to fall, but most will be lost to runoff

Some forecasters are predicting as much as 22 trillion gallons of water will have fallen on drought-stricken California when the storms are finally over. That's more than enough water to fill Lake Powell and Lake Mead, two major reservoirs.

But most of the water won't be captured in reservoirs. It will be lost to runoff that goes to the ocean.

"The challenge there is getting the water from outfalls … or rivers and into the groundwater," said Jenny Pensky, a hydrogeologist at the University of California Santa Cruz. "And we just don't quite have the infrastructure for that."

With all the sewage, bacteria and debris in the storm runoff, the water would also have to be treated before it could be used.  

By Carter Evans
 

California faces heavy rain for next few days

California faces heavy rain for next few days 00:52
 

427 schools closed throughout state, California Department of Educations says

The California Department of Education announced that 427 public and public charter schools were closed statewide on Tuesday, with 185,513 students missing school as the state deals with extreme weather conditions.

The count does not include private schools.

By Gina Martinez
 

At least 17 dead; a child swept away

The storm's death toll reached at least 17 on Tuesday, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom. That was an increase from the 14 reported deaths Monday.

Officials spent seven hours Monday unsuccessfully searching for a 5-year-old boy who was swept away in floodwaters, turning up only his shoe, CBS Los Angeles reported. The child was swept from his mother's stranded truck downstream and likely carried into a river, said an official with Cal Fire/San Luis Obispo County Fire Department.

 

Sinkhole swallows cars in Los Angeles suburb

A sinkhole opened up on a road in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Chatsworth. Two people were able to flee as it swallowed a car and a pickup truck. Firefighters rescued two others trapped in their car by the sinkhole, which reached at least 15 feet deep on Monday.

Multiple Storms Batter California With Flooding Rains
In an aerial view, a car and a pickup truck are seen inside a sinkhole as another storm created by a series of atmospheric rivers inundates California on January 10, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. David McNew / Getty Images

This sinkhole appeared to deepen overnight, reported CBS Los Angeles, and the vehicles were still visible Tuesday morning, albeit covered in mud.

Firefighters said the sinkhole in the suburban neighborhood had compromised the entire road.

A sinkhole also damaged at least 15 homes in Orcutt, in Santa Barbara County, forcing evacuations, The Associated Press reported.

 

Montecito residents under evacuation order

Officials ordered all residents of Montecito to evacuate Monday. The 8,600-person community in Santa Barbara County is known for its famous residents, who reportedly include Prince Harry and Meghan, football star Troy Aikman, singer Ariana Grande, actors Jennifer Aniston and Gwyneth Paltrow, Oprah, and comedian Larry David, among others. 

Creeks and roads were flooded, said Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown in the wake of Monday's decision, which he said was "based on the continuing high rate of rainfall with no indication that that is going to change before nightfall." 

Schools in the community were closed Tuesday.

Flooded road in Montecito, California
Jameson Lane in Montecito is flooded a result of San Ysidro creek overflowing amid heavy rainfall in the area. At left is the 101 Freeway that was closed to all vehicles heading north.  Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
 

Ellen DeGeneres posts video of rushing floodwaters

One of Montecito's famous residents, comedian Ellen DeGeneres, took to Instagram on Tuesday to show the raging creek next to her house.

DeGeneres said that the creek, which "never flows, ever," is about nine feet higher than normal and is expected to rise another two feet. She said that she is on higher ground and was told to shelter in place during the community's evacuation.  

 

Mudslides bury roads and cars

Some areas saw mudslides close roads and cover cars starting Monday. In Ventura County, north of Los Angeles, mudslides trapped a big rig and other vehicles on State Route 126, reported CBS Los Angeles. The Associated Press reported the rain washed 3 feet of mud and rock across the road.

Mudslides were feared in many California communities that saw evacuations, including Montecito, which marked the fifth anniversary Tuesday of deadly mudslides that killed 23 people and destroyed more than 100 homes, and in Ventura County's La Concita, where 10 people died in a 2005 mudslide, The AP reported. Mudslides also damaged homes in the Hollywood Hills.

California rockslide
Montecito Summerland Fire Protection District responds to a rockslide where two 500-gallon propane tanks were washed up in Toro Canyon, on Jan. 10, 2023 in Summerland, California. Gary Coronado Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A driver told KCAL News that a hill collapsed and the mud surrounded his black Audi at around 2 a.m. local time Tuesday, leaving him stuck near Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles on Tuesday morning.

 

Power outages leave nearly 150,000 in the dark

The power was out for nearly 150,000 California customers as of Tuesday afternoon, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks U.S. outages.

While most of those were customers of PG&E, which serves more than 5 million customers in the northern and central parts of the state, municipal utilities in Los Angeles and Sacramento each reported more than 10,000 without power.

 

Snowpack reaches more than 200% of normal statewide

The storm didn't just bring rain — higher elevations saw snow, and plenty of it. The California Highway Patrol closed part of I-80 on Tuesday morning amid high winds and whiteout conditions.

Those inches pushed the statewide snowpack to 215% of normal as of Tuesday, according to the state's Department of Water Resources — and nearly to the average for the first quarter of the year.

"Heavy mountain snow and gusty winds will bring periods of whiteout conditions with chain controls and likely road closures through tonight," according to the weather service's Sacramento office.

Mammoth Mountain was closed Tuesday "due to intense snowfall conditions and very dangerous travel in the area," according to the resort's website. The resort saw 32 inches of snow Monday and 22 inches on Tuesday at its main lodge.

And another 18-36 inches could be in store for the University of California-Berkeley's Sierra Snow Lab, which saw more than 9 inches in the last 24 hours.

Heavy snow was also anticipated to continue Tuesday night at high elevations across the West, according to the National Weather Service, meaning some areas could see an additional few feet of snow.

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