California weather: State braces for more life-threatening rain as storm death toll rises

California is bracing for even more atmospheric river storms after weeks of rain have led to devastating impacts and the deaths of at least 17 people. 

More than 51,000 customers were without power as of 7 a.m. PT on Wednesday, according to PowerOutage.us. 

In the San Francisco Bay Area, the National Weather Service (NWS) said a wind advisory was in effect from 7 a.m. PT through 7 p.m. 

“Gusty southerly winds combine with saturated soils will result in a higher likelihood for down trees,” the office there tweeted. 

CALIFORNIA AUTHORITIES SAY FINDING MISSING 5-YEAR-OLD IS ‘TOP PRIORITY’ AS SEARCH RESUMES WEDNESDAY MORNING

A flood watch was also issued for the North Bay in the morning and through noon, with additional rains bringing flooding concerns.

The office there tweeted out a picture of hail – smaller than a dime – that fell over the region and a high surf warning was in effect through last night.

In an aerial view, a flooded area by the overflowing San Ysidro creek on Jameson Lane is seen near the closed Highway 101 in Montecito, Calif., on Jan. 10, 2023.

In an aerial view, a flooded area by the overflowing San Ysidro creek on Jameson Lane is seen near the closed Highway 101 in Montecito, Calif., on Jan. 10, 2023. ((AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu))

In South San Francisco a roof was blown off an apartment building early Tuesday morning, with debris landing on cars. 

Exposed roofing tops a South San Francisco, Calif., apartment building as storms continue battering the state on Jan. 10, 2023.

Exposed roofing tops a South San Francisco, Calif., apartment building as storms continue battering the state on Jan. 10, 2023. ((AP Photo/Noah Berger))

The NWS in Sacramento noted Tuesday night that Sierra highways were blanketed in white and that Interstate 80 remained closed due to traffic conditions. 

A resident keeps watch on Fredonia Drive in Studio City, Calif., where a mudslide is blocking the road during a rain on Jan. 10, 2023.   

A resident keeps watch on Fredonia Drive in Studio City, Calif., where a mudslide is blocking the road during a rain on Jan. 10, 2023.    ((Sarah Reingewirtz /The Orange County Register via AP))

It warned of flooding, thunderstorms, rain and snow, whereas the office in Los Angeles said that the bulk of the rain had exited its forecast area. 

“So, how much rain fell from this storm? SEVERAL inches in most areas, with amounts upwards of 18 inches over higher terrain of Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties,” it noted. 

DANGEROUS WEATHER CONDITIONS CONTINUE IN CALIFORNIA AS TENS OF THOUSANDS FORCED TO EVACUATE 

Following days of rain, floodwaters surround homes and vehicles in the Planada community of Merced County, Calif., on Jan. 10, 2023. 

Following days of rain, floodwaters surround homes and vehicles in the Planada community of Merced County, Calif., on Jan. 10, 2023.  ((AP Photo/Noah Berger))

The NWS there also retweeted images from agencies showing a tree crushing a vehicle and roads washed away or covered in rocks and mudslides.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said that the death toll from the storms was likely to rise. 

Speaking from Capitola, he noted that more than half of the Golden State’s 58 counties were declared disaster areas.

Cars remain in a large sinkhole along Iverson Road in Chatsworth, Calif., on Jan. 10, 2023. 

Cars remain in a large sinkhole along Iverson Road in Chatsworth, Calif., on Jan. 10, 2023.  ((David Crane/The Orange County Register via AP))

“We’re not out of the woods, and we expect these storms to continue until the 18th, in many different shapes and forms,” Newsom said at a press conference. “We expect, at minimum, three more of these atmospheric rivers in different shapes and forms. The magnitude of this is not isolated.”

He urged thousands of residents to heed evacuation orders.

“This weather whiplash is that new reality. In this state, emergency mindset is ever-present. This has happened in the middle of a megadrought. The dries are getting drier, and the wets and getting a lot wetter,” the governor added.

Firefighters clear away a fallen tree in Montecito, Calif., on Jan. 10, 2023. 

Firefighters clear away a fallen tree in Montecito, Calif., on Jan. 10, 2023.  ((AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu))

More than 10,000 people who were ordered out of seaside towns on the central coast were allowed to return home. 

Mudslides had damaged homes in the Los Angeles hills, while further up the coast a sinkhole damaged 15 homes in the Santa Barbara County community of Orcutt.

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The wet weather left California’s large homeless population in a precarious situation. At least two homeless people in Sacramento County died and more than a dozen people were rescued from a homeless encampment on the Ventura River.

Despite the rain, most of the state remained in extreme or severe drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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