Evacuations ordered as fierce storm leaves almost 100,000 in California without power

US

People living in high-risk coastal areas of California have been ordered to leave their homes as another fierce storm hits the state.

Around 100,000 people in the San Francisco Bay (76,000) and Central Coast areas (19,000) have been left without power by the latest storm, which has seen flights and school lessons cancelled.

California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency as the incoming weather front was expected to bring heavy rain, snow and flooding, just days after another powerful storm, NBC said.

Pedestrians walk around a tree that fell during a storm in downtown Sacramento, California, U.S. January 4, 2023. REUTERS/Fred Greaves
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People walk around a tree that fell during a storm in downtown Sacramento

Mandatory evacuation orders were in effect for several cities in Northern California, including Richmond in the Bay Area and Watsonville in Santa Cruz County, NBC added.

The Los Angeles area was one of nine areas put under a flood watch overnight while highways were closed and people asked to stay off the roads in Northern California.

The storm was forecast to drop up to 10ins (25.4cm) of rain on an area where the hills have already been saturated over the past month.

Nancy Ward, the director of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, said: “We anticipate that this may be one of the most challenging and impactful series of storms to touch down in California in the last five years.”

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Among the towns ordered to evacuate was Montecito, which is home to many celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

Five years ago, 23 people died there as huge boulders, mud and debris swept down mountains, destroying more than 100 homes.

PG&E utilities workers clear a fallen tree which took down some power lines next to Bella Vista Elementary School in the Bella Vista neighborhood in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, January 4, 2023. (Salgu Wissmath/San Francisco Chronicle via AP)
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Workers clear a fallen tree which took down some power lines next to a school in Bella Vista in Oakland
Cars sit stuck in a flooded underpass at Webster St. and 34th St. that has been flooded since this weekend's storm in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, January 4, 2023. (Salgu Wissmath/San Francisco Chronicle via AP)
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Cars sit stuck in a flooded underpass in Oakland

Montecito Fire Department chief Kevin Taylor said: “What we’re talking about here is a lot of water coming off the top of the hills, coming down into the creeks and streams and as it comes down, it gains momentum and that’s what the initial danger is.”

Parts of Northern California suffered howling winds and pictures were published of uprooted trees and power lines and submerged vehicles.

A partially submerged boathouse is seen on the Sacramento River, which level has risen due to storms, in West Sacramento, California, U.S. January 4, 2023. REUTERS/Fred Greaves
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A partially submerged boathouse on the Sacramento River in West Sacramento

In southern California, the storm was expected to peak in intensity overnight, with Santa Barbara and Ventura counties likely to see the most rain, forecasters said.

It’s one of three so-called atmospheric river storms in the last week to reach the drought-stricken state.

The first evacuations were ordered for those living in areas burned by three recent wildfires in Santa Barbara County, where heavy rain forecast for overnight could cause widespread flooding and unleash debris flows.

County officials did not have a firm number for how many people were under evacuation orders, but Susan Klein-Rothschild, a spokesperson in the county’s emergency operations centre, estimated it was in the hundreds.

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