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Watch: Flooded streets, downed trees and snow as storms batter California

By Ido Vock
BBC News

Millions of people in California are facing potentially life-threatening flooding as a storm brings torrential rain to the state.

About half a year’s worth of rain could fall in Los Angeles and its surrounding areas in just 24 hours on Monday.

The “atmospheric rivers” causing the storms have already brought rain, wind and snow to swathes of California.

The storm killed one man in Sacramento Valley, who died on Sunday after a tree fell on him due to fierce winds.

A state of emergency has been declared in 10 of the state’s counties.

Forecasters have said torrential rain is now the main risk facing California, and could cause flash flooding and mudslides. Officials have issued evacuation orders for residents in several counties, including Los Angeles and Santa Barbara.

On Monday, the Weather Prediction Service (WPC), part of the National Weather Service (NWS), issued a level four warning for rainfall in the southern parts of the state.

These warnings follow what has already been a record-setting day for the state. The NWS said that on Sunday, 4.10 inches of rainfall dropped in downtown Los Angeles, surpassing the previous record of 2.5 inches set in 1927.

Monday is expected to be worse with the NWS warning that it could be “one of the most dramatic weather days in recent memory”.

The WPC said the Los Angeles Basin and surrounding areas face potentially “life-threatening” flash flooding. It said mudslides and debris flows were also a risk.

The centre added that “very heavy” snows would continue in the Sierra Nevada mountains, rendering travel “dangerous to impossible”.

The NWS said strong winds of up to 70mph (112kmph) could cause further power cuts and downed trees, though winds would decrease significantly by Monday night.

Large steep waves would make areas along the coastline “extremely dangerous”. it added.

Flights from Santa Barbara Airport were cancelled and drivers stranded by flooding in Los Angeles had to be released by rescuers.

Nearly half a million people were without power on Monday morning as the storm knocked out electricity networks.

The storm has also forced schools in Malibu closed as some staff were not able to get there due to road flooding and closures.

Police in Los Angeles have reported that several homes and vehicles were damaged by debris flow and landslides, especially in the Hollywood Hills and Studio City neighbourhoods, close to Universal Studios Hollywood.

Heavy rain was also seen in Agoura Hills on Sunday

The storm is due to an “atmospheric river” effect, caused by airborne currents of dense moisture.

Atmospheric rivers are a phenomenon in which water evaporates into the air and is carried along by the wind, forming long currents that flow in the sky like rivers flow on land.

A first atmospheric river hit California last week. The renewed bout of bad weather is caused by a second.

In a statement declaring the state of emergency in eight counties, including Los Angeles and Orange, Governor Gavin Newsom said: “This is a serious storm with dangerous and potentially life-threatening impacts.

“California is ready with a record number of emergency assets on the ground to respond to the impacts of this storm.”

Two other counties have declared their own states of emergency.

NWS officials urged people in affected areas to heed evacuation orders, stay off the roads and be prepared for potential power cuts.

Watch: From droughts to flooded streets – is California’s extreme weather in 2023 the new norm?

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13 March 2023
18 hours ago