California flooding: All of Montecito under evacuation order

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Rescuers ended the search for a 5-year-old boy swept away by floodwaters in central California and the entire coastal community of Montecito was ordered to evacuate Monday as the latest in a series of powerful storms hit. on the wall. states.

Thousands of people remained without power, and some schools were closed for the day. Streets and highways became gushing rivers, downed trees, mudslides and motorists were stranded as they hit road blocks caused by fallen debris. The death toll from a series of relentless storms climbed from 12 to 14 on Monday, after two people were killed by falling trees, state officials said.

A seven-hour search for the boy yielded only his shoe before officials called him out because water levels were too dangerous for divers, officials said. The boy has not been pronounced dead, said spokesman Tony Cipolla of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office.

The boy’s mother was driving a truck when it got stuck in flood waters just before 8 a.m. near Paso Robles, a small city inland from California’s central coast, according to Tom Swanson, assistant chief of the Cal Fire/San Luis Obispo County Fire Department.

Bystanders were able to pull the mother out of the truck, but the boy was swept out of the vehicle and downstream, likely into a river, Swanson said. There was no evacuation order in the area at the time.

About 130 miles (209 kilometers) south, the entire community of Montecito and the surrounding canyons were scarred by wildfires recently under an evacuation order that came on the fifth anniversary of the mudslide. which killed 23 people and destroyed more than 100 houses in the coastal bay.

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The National Weather Service reported rain rates of one inch (2.5 centimeters) per hour, and heavy downpours are expected overnight in the upscale area where roads run along wooded hills lined with mansions. Nestled between the mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Montecito is home to celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, Rob Lowe and Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

Jamie McLeod’s property was under a Montecito evacuation order, but she said she has no way to “get off the mountain” with an overflowing pond 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 make a weekly food delivery and is also stuck.

McLeod said she is lucky because her house is on high ground and the power is still on. But she said she is tired of the frequent evacuation orders since the massive wildfire that followed the deadly landslide five years ago.

“It’s not easy to relocate,” McLeod said. “I absolutely love it – except in a disaster.”

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said the decision to evacuate nearly 10,000 people “was based on the continued high rate of rain with no indication that will change before nightfall.” Cranes were overflowing, and many roads were under water.

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Northbound lanes of US 101, a major coastal highway, were closed until Tuesday. Many roads and other local roads were closed due to rock slides and flooding.

Up the coast, evacuation orders were issued in Santa Cruz County for about 32,000 residents living near rain-fed rivers and lakes. The San Lorenzo River was declared at flood stage, and drone footage showed many houses sitting in muddy brown water, the top halves of cars sticking out.

Maria Cucchiara, who lives in tiny underwater Felton, went for a walk to count her blessings after a “huge branch stuck” on the roof of her small studio, she said.

“I have two kitties and we could have been killed. It was over a ton,” she said. “So needless to say, it was very disturbing.”

Nicole Martin, owner of the Fern River Resort in Felton, described a smoother scene Monday. Her clients sipped coffee among the redwood trees and were “enjoying the show,” she said, as picnic tables and other debris floated down the swollen San Lorenzo.

The river is usually about 60 feet (18 meters) below the cabins, Martin said, but it rose up to 12 feet (4 meters) from the cabins.

In Northern California, several districts closed schools and more than 35,000 customers remained without power in Sacramento – down from more than 350,000 a day earlier after gusts of 60 mph (97 kph) knocked majestic trees into power lines, according to the Sacramento Municipal Utility District. . A homeless person killed by a falling tree in the region was among the new deaths announced on Monday.

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The National Weather Service warned of a “relentless parade of atmospheric rivers” – long plumes of moisture stretching out into the Pacific Ocean that could drop heavy rain and snow. The precipitation expected over the next few days comes after storms last week knocked out power, flooded streets and battered the coast.

President Joe Biden issued an emergency declaration Monday to support storm response and relief efforts in more than a dozen counties.

The weather service has issued a 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 foothills of the already soaked Sacramento area.

In the Los Angeles area, foothill areas could see as much as 8 inches (20 centimeters) of rain late Monday and Tuesday. High surf was also expected.

Much of California is still in severe to extreme drought, although the storms have helped fill depleted reservoirs.


Associated Press writers Stefanie Dazio in Los Angeles, Janie Har and Olga R. Rodriguez in San Francisco, Amy Taxin in Orange County, Nic Coury in Aptos, Martha Mendoza in Santa Cruz and Haven Daley in Felton contributed to this report.


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