USA – Rescues and Evacuations in California After Atmospheric River Triggers More Floods

A powerful atmospheric river intensified over California, USA, on 09 January 2023 bringing yet more heavy rain which has triggered flooding and mudslides.

Floods in San Luis Obispo, California, 09 January 2023. Photo: County of San Luis Obispo Government

The most recent storm is just one of a number of similar severe weather events to affect the region since late December 2022.

The National Weather Service (NWS) said, “The endless onslaught of potent systems with atmospheric rivers of moisture continues to inundate California. Torrential rain, widespread flooding, rapid water rises, mudslides and landslides with possible debris flows, heavy mountain snow and gusty high winds all remain threats to the Golden State.”

Nearly all of California has seen much above average rainfall totals over the past several weeks with totals 400-600% above average values. “This has resulted in nearly saturated soils and increasingly high river levels,” NWS said.

For a 48-hour period to 10 January, NWS Los Angeles reported 415.04 mm (16.34 inches) of rain at Nordhoff Ridge in Ventura County and 407.67 mm (16.05 inches) at San Marcos Pass in Santa Barbara County County. The highest total in L.A. County was 180.85 mm (7.12 inches) at Warm Springs. Buellton in Santa Barbara County recorded 275.59 mm (10.85 inches).

The next atmospheric river is expected to impact northern California and the Pacific Northwest beginning on 10 January 2023, NWS said.

Rescues and Evacuations

Authorities report at least 14 people have now died in the state as a result of the recent storms. A child was reported missing after a vehicle was swept away by floodwaters in Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo County. One person survived the incident. Local authorities also reported homes damaged in areas of the city of San Luis Obispo, Los Osos and Atascadero in San Luis Obispo County.

Associated Press reported a sinkhole swallowed two vehicles in the Chatsworth area of Los Angeles. Two people were rescued, suffering injuries, while two people escaped unharmed.

Emergency services were also called on to rescue numerous people from the overflowing Ventura River in western Ventura County.

Thousands of people were ordered to evacuate their homes in Montecito and other areas of Santa Barbara County. Areas of Santa Maria in Santa Barbara County were also flooded.

Communities further north in Santa Cruz County were also issued evacuation orders, where areas around Felton were particularly badly flooded.

Flooding was also reported in Stockton in San Joaquin County.

Rising Rivers

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said the cumulative effect of successive heavy rain events will lead to additional considerable flood impacts.

In a report of 09 January, FEMA noted concern about river levels in over 10 locations, including the Carmel, San Lorenzo, Guadelupe, Alameda and Russian rivers. “Minor to isolated major river flooding is expected through next week, with record-high river levels possible, the agency said.

Floods in Santa Barbara city, California USA, 09 January 2023. Photo: Santa Barbara City Fire Service

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