Onslaught of “endless” storms leaves at least 16 dead in California

Relentless storms ravaged California again on Tuesday, in the latest episode of extreme weather that has so far killed at least 16 people and caused damage to large areas of the state.

Torrential rains have caused flash flooding, closed highways, downed trees and have washed away drivers and passengers, including a five-year-old boy who remains missing in central California.

Even more rain and snow are expected to hit America’s most populous state.

About 160,000 businesses and homes in California lost power Tuesday, according to tracking site Poweroutage.us.

A new storm will hit the north of the state on Wednesday with up to 18 centimeters of new precipitation and “several additional feet of snow” in the Sierra Nevada mountains, the National Weather Service (NWS) said.

The entity described the phenomenon as “an endless onslaught of events produced by an atmospheric river”, the most powerful storm system since 2005.

The town of Montecito, home to Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle, was hit by several inches of rain that increased the risk of dangerous landslides.

Authorities in the town, 90 minutes from Los Angeles, ordered the evacuation of all people on Monday, and an AFP journalist saw police blockades to prevent people from entering the town, where several roads were flooded.

The city with multi-million dollar properties is especially vulnerable to landslides. It sits at the foot of a mountain range that was the scene of a fire five years ago that burned hundreds of square miles, stripping the slopes of the vegetation that normally holds the ground firm.

TV host Ellen DeGeneres posted a video on Twitter of a raging stream of brown water. “It’s crazy,” she told her followers.

“The creek by our house never flows. It’s probably about nine feet (2.7 meters) high, and it’s going to go up another two feet (more than half a meter).”

It was not clear how many of the town’s residents, who also include Larry David, Gwyneth Paltrow, Katy Perry and Rob Lowe, complied with the order to evacuate.

Actress Jennifer Aniston and television host Oprah Winfrey, among others, own homes valued at millions of dollars in Montecito.

Spokesmen for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex did not respond to a request for comment.

Several swaths of the state were under flood watch amid near-record downpours in recent weeks, with even more rain forecast for days to come.

“There will be a brief lull in rain in the West tonight before the next atmospheric river arrives on Wednesday. There will be moisture before the arrival of a large cyclone in the eastern Pacific Ocean, which will bring heavy precipitation to Northern California.” said the NWS.

In the past 30 days, Montecito received rainfall “well above our annual average,” firefighters said on Twitter.

Five years ago, landslides triggered by heavy rainfall left 23 dead in the city.

That area is not the only one where evacuations have been ordered.

In Santa Cruz County, near San Francisco, more than 30,000 residents were also forced to leave by order of the authorities.

In San Luis Obispo County, authorities have called off the search for a missing 5-year-old boy because the waters are too dangerous for divers, Fox News reported, citing a local official.

Several areas suffered near record rainfall in recent days. Grounds are completely waterlogged and the Weather Service has issued flood advisories for much of California.

Although it is difficult to establish a direct relationship between storms and climate change, scientists say that global warming increases the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.

Last week’s storm left tens of thousands of people without power, caused severe flooding and triggered landslides. It came just days after another deluge of rain on New Year’s Eve.


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Elton Gardner

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