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California storms bring more heavy rain, flooding and power outages

Flood waters inundate a home by the Salinas River near Chualar, Calif., on Saturday. A series of atmospheric river storms continue to cause widespread destruction across the state.
David McNew
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AFP via Getty Images
Flood waters inundate a home by the Salinas River near Chualar, Calif., on Saturday. A series of atmospheric river storms continue to cause widespread destruction across the state.

After a brief respite, a new round of heavy rains and wind gusts are lashing the state, forcing evacuations and knocking out power to tens of thousands of homes.

Updated January 15, 2023 at 12:32 PM ET

Rounds of heavy rain, wind and snow are battering California once again, prompting flood alerts and power outages in several regions.

The storms are expected to continue at least through the weekend, the National Weather Service said. President Joe Biden has declared the storms a major disaster and ordered federal aid to supplement local recovery efforts in affected areas.

On Sunday, areas across California were preparing for yet another storm to douse parts of the state. More rain was expected Sunday night into Monday morning as well as the likelihood of moderate to heavy mountain snow, the NWS said.

Flood warnings had been issued across the Bay Area and Central Valley, including in Mendocino, Napa, Marin, Sonoma, Sacramento, Merced and Fresno counties.

Evacuations had been ordered in Monterey County on the central coast, where the Salinas River's overtopped banks inundated farmland.

To the east, Gov. Gavin Newsom visited the hart-hit Merced County on Saturday, joined by local officials.

"The reality is that this is just the eighth of what we anticipate will be nine atmospheric rivers — we're not done," Newsom said at a news conference on Saturday.

In an aerial view, farming equipment is seen submerged in floodwater after the Salinas River overflowed its banks on Friday in Salinas, Calif.
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
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Getty Images
In an aerial view, farming equipment is seen submerged in floodwater after the Salinas River overflowed its banks on Friday in Salinas, Calif.

Merced Mayor Matthew Serratto said 5,000 homes were under evacuation orders in the area, which he says is experiencing record flooding.

Further south, a flood warning was issued for Santa Cruz County. Rising flood waters from the San Lorenzo River on Saturday morning forced residents to evacuate their small low-lying communities of Felton Grove and Soquel Village.

Since last month, a series of atmospheric rivers has pummeled the state. Since then, at least 19 people have died in storm-related incidents, and a 5-year-old who was swept away by floodwaters in San Luis Obispo County remains missing. The governor said the recent weather events have resulted in more deaths than the state's last two years of wildfires.

More than 19,000 customers were without electricity on Sunday afternoon, according to poweroutage.us, a number that had declined since Saturday evening.

The state will continue to see periodic rain into Wednesday, with 2-4 inches expected to drop along the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, according to the Weather Prediction Center.

"The end is in sight," for this round of storms, said meteorologist David Roth.

In Montecito, a wealthy enclave in Santa Barbara County, residents are still cleaning up after floods covered roads in mud and triggered mudslides earlier this past week.

The town didn't suffer a repeat of 2018, when 23 people died in catastrophic debris flows. Much of the community was ordered to evacuate on the 5-year anniversary of the incident; residents were a bit more on edge with the parade of storms and have been heeding warnings from officials.

"I think there's a reality setting in of, you know, this isn't something that's just going to happen intermittently," said Montecito resident Erika Gabrielli. "But with climate change and other things happening, we may have to start to prepare for what a new normal could look like."

Helen Barrington of CapRadio and Matt Guilhem of KCRW contributed to this report.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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