California hurricane kills 17, missing 5 year old child

published on Wednesday January 11, 2023 at 04:22

Torrential rains still battered California on Tuesday, where successive storms have killed 17 people, led to the disappearance of a five-year-old child and prompted authorities to order evacuations in many areas.

Torrential rains over the last two days on already waterlogged land have caused severe power outages, multiple flooding, uprooting many trees and cutting off main roads, the floods sometimes washing away motorists.

Repeated storms that have hit the western US state have killed 17 Californians in recent weeks, “more than any wildfires in the last two years,” Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office said in a statement. .

Mr Newsom said at least 34,000 people had been told to leave their homes.

“We are not at the end of the trouble. We expect the storm to continue until January 18 at least,” he told reporters. “Right now we have 17 confirmed deaths. I tragically emphasize this because only these deaths have been confirmed.”

In Paso Robles, a small town between Los Angeles and San Francisco, a 5-year-old boy was swept up in the waves on Monday and is still missing, according to a statement from the sheriff.

The flood had trapped the car he was in with his mother, who was rescued by a neighbor. Authorities had to suspend their search Monday afternoon due to bad weather.

In Bakersfield, in the center of the state, two motorists died after a tree fell on the road, according to the Los Angeles Times.

As of Tuesday, around 110,000 homes and businesses were without power, according to dedicated website PowerOutage.

– “Endless attack” –

According to the weather service (NWS), after a brief lull late Tuesday night, a new storm is expected to hit California on Wednesday, with up to 18 centimeters of rain expected in the northern part of the state.

California is currently experiencing an “endless onslaught of atmospheric rivers,” which it hasn’t seen since 2005, according to the NWS. These “rivers in the sky”, formed by moisture in the tropics and flowing to drain the waters of the west coast of the United States, are rare.

This enclave, where actress Jennifer Aniston and TV presenter Oprah Winfrey have luxury villas, is a microcosm of the extremes that have been ravaged by California’s drought for two decades.

Five years ago, a massive fire destroyed the mountains around Montecito. As a result, the absence of vegetation makes it highly vulnerable to landslides. In January 2018, landslides caused by heavy rains killed 23 people.

“Because the mountains are there, when it rains really (…), it quickly becomes dangerous”, said Daniel DeMuyer, a resident of the town where several streets and a few houses were flooded. “It’s the price to pay to live in such a beautiful place, when it rains like that, a lot of damage is done.”

On Monday, TV presenter Ellen DeGeneres, who also lives in the town, posted a video to Twitter showing a spout of muddy water.

“This is crazy,” he said worriedly. “The creek next to our house never flows at all.”

– serial storm –

Other areas have been the subject of evacuation orders from authorities, such as in Santa Cruz County, near San Francisco, where a wharf was destroyed last week.

While it is difficult to establish a direct link between these series of storms and climate change, scientists regularly explain that warming is increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.

Last week’s storms knocked out power to tens of thousands of people, causing massive flooding and triggering landslides. It came just days after heavy rains on New Year’s Eve.

The extraordinary rainfall of the past few days has already exceeded the average annual rainfall in some areas.

However, they will not be enough to replenish California’s water reserves. Several winters with above-normal rainfall are needed to compensate for recent years’ drought, experts say.

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