California storm leaves thousands without power as evacuations ordered

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Transportation crews check large boulders that fell onto a highway during a storm (Image: Uncredited/AP/REX/Shutterstock)
Transportation crews check large boulders that fell onto a highway during a storm (Image: Uncredited/AP/REX/Shutterstock)

Evacuations have been ordered in high-risk coastal areas of California, including Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's home town of Montecito, as a huge storm bears down on the state.

California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency to allow for a quick response and to aid in clean-up from another powerful storm that hit just days earlier.

The new storm has already left around 95,000 people without power – with more than 76,000 of those in the San Francisco Bay area.

Dozens of flights out of San Francisco have been cancelled and schools in one of the city’s suburbs pre-emptively cancelled Thursday's classes.

Officials warned people throughout Northern California to stay off the roads.

Plane passengers stuck on flight for 13 hours - only to end up where they began rriqudirriezinvPlane passengers stuck on flight for 13 hours - only to end up where they began
California storm leaves thousands without power as evacuations orderedGovernor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

“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,” said Nancy Ward, the new director of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

The storm, which brought howling winds to Northern California on Wednesday evening, is one of three so-called atmospheric river storms in the last week to reach the drought-stricken state.

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.

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.

California storm leaves thousands without power as evacuations orderedCars drive along Highway 101 as rain falls (Getty Images)

Among the towns ordered to evacuate was Montecito, where five years ago huge boulders, mud and debris swept down mountains through the town to the shoreline, killing 23 people and destroying more than 100 homes.

The town is home to many celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey as well as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

“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,” Montecito Fire Department chief Kevin Taylor said.

Officials asked drivers to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary — and to stay informed by signing up for updates from emergency officials about downed trees and power lines, and flooding.

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

Giant sinkhole swallows truck as drivers keep ignoring road closed warningsGiant sinkhole swallows truck as drivers keep ignoring road closed warnings
California storm leaves thousands without power as evacuations orderedThe canopy of gas station toppled by strong winds in San Francisco (Godofredo A Vásquez/AP/REX/Shutterstock)

It comes days after a New Year’s Eve downpour led to the evacuations of people in rural Northern California communities and the rescue of several motorists from flooded roads.

On Wednesday, authorities in south Sacramento County found a body in a submerged car — one of at least four victims of flooding from that storm.

Residents who fled wildfires in the Santa Cruz Mountains in 2020 were packing their bags as the towns of Boulder Creek, Ben Lomond and Felton were all warned they should be prepared to evacuate.

Associated Press

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15.07.2024, 17:44 • Investigation