California Floods: All of Montecito under evacuation order

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Rescuers have completed the search for a 5-year-old boy who was swept away by flooding in central California, while the entire coastal community of Montecito was ordered to evacuate Monday. condition.

Tens of thousands of people were without power, and some schools were closed for the day. Streets and highways turned into raging rivers, trees fell, mudslides and motorists roared as they hit roadblocks caused by fallen debris. The death toll from the relentless storms rose from 12 to 14 on Monday after two people were killed by falling trees, state officials said.

A nearly seven-hour search for the boy turned up only his shoe, before officials called it off because the waters were too dangerous for divers. The boy has not been pronounced dead, said Tony Cipolla, a spokesman for the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office.

Cal Fire/San Luis Obispo County Assistant Chief Tom Swanson said the boy’s mother was driving a truck when she was caught in floodwaters around 8 a.m. near the small town of Paso Robles inland from California’s central coast.

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

About 130 miles (209 kilometers) to the south, the entire community of Montecito and valleys affected by recent wildfires were under an evacuation order that came on the fifth anniversary of the landslide. It killed 23 people and destroyed more than 100 houses along the coast.

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The National Weather Service recorded an inch (2.5 centimeters) of rain per hour, with heavy rain expected overnight in the highlands where roads lead to tree-lined hillsides lined with large homes. Montecito squeezes between the mountains and the Pacific and 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 he said he had no way to “get off the mountain” with the overflowing creek on one side and the mud on the other. The 60-year-old owner of the Santa Barbara Bird Sanctuary said one of his employees came to make his weekly food delivery and got stuck.

McLeod said he feels lucky his home sits on higher ground and the power is still on. But he said he was tired of frequent evacuation orders after the massive wildfires that followed a devastating landslide five years ago.

“It’s not easy to relocate,” McLeod said. “I absolutely love it — except for the disaster.”

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said the decision to evacuate nearly 10,000 people was “based on continued high rainfall rates.” Creeks overflowed and many roads were flooded.

The northbound lanes of US 101, a major coastal thoroughfare, were expected to remain closed until Tuesday. Several highways and local roads were closed due to rock slides and flooding.

Along the coast, in Santa Cruz County, evacuation orders were issued for about 32,000 residents living near flooded rivers and creeks. The San Lorenzo River was declared at flood stage, and drone footage showed scores of homes sitting in muddy brown water, with the tops of autos peeking out.

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Felton resident Maria Cucciara went for a walk to count her blessings after “a big branch harpooned” the roof of her small studio during minor flooding, she said.

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

Nicole Martin, owner of Fern River Resort in Felton, described a very quiet scene Monday. As picnic tables and other debris floated down the swollen San Lorenzo, his customers were sipping coffee amid the towering redwoods and “enjoying the show,” he said.

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

In Northern California, several counties closed schools and more than 35,000 customers were without power in Sacramento — more than 350,000 a day after winds of 60 mph (97 kph) toppled majestic trees onto power lines, according to the Sacramento Municipal Utility District. . Among the new deaths reported Monday, a homeless man was killed when a tree fell in the area.

The National Weather Service warned of a “relentless march of atmospheric rivers” — a long stretch of moisture in the Pacific that could reduce the amount of rain and snow. Rain is expected over the next two days after last week’s storms knocked out power, flooded streets and pummeled coastal areas.

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

The weather service issued a flood watch for much of northern and central California, expecting 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 centimeters) of rain through Wednesday in the already saturated Sacramento-area foothills.

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In the Los Angeles area, up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) of rain is possible in the foothills on Monday and Tuesday. High traffic was also expected.

Much of California is in a severe drought, although storms have helped replenish dry reservoirs.

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Associated Press writers Stephanie Tasio in Los Angeles, Johnny Harr in San Francisco and Olga R. Amy Daxin in Rodriguez, Orange County, Nick Coury in Aptos, Martha Mendoza in Santa Cruz and Haven Daly in Felton contributed to this report.

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