Santa Cruz County and other parts of Northern California sustained heavy downpours that caused flooding and power outages on Monday. Forecasters say there is more heavy rain incoming, resulting in a flood watch across most of the state.
Over the last three weeks, California has been facing severe winter storm systems, as The Dallas Express previously reported. Not only have atmospheric rivers — miles-long bands of highly concentrated water vapor ushered in from the tropics by a cold front — made landfall and flooded rivers and creeks, but powerful winds have also knocked over trees and left thousands of coastal residents without power.
Daniel Swain, a climate specialist at UCLA said, “This is just the middle of what has already been a very wet and active pattern — and what is expected to be one, really, for at least another week or so.”
The dangerous flooding has claimed the lives of at least 16 people as of Tuesday.
According to Governor Gavin Newsom’s office, President Joe Biden approved the governor’s request for a federal emergency declaration. Now, FEMA has the full ability to come in and help the state.
“There are still several days of severe winter weather ahead and we need all Californians to be alert and heed the advice of emergency officials,” said Newsom during a press conference. “Thanks to the President signing off on our request for emergency declaration, we are mobilizing all available resources at every level of government to protect lives and limit storm damage.”
Some residents in Santa Cruz County were trapped in their homes and cars due to major swelling and flooding of the San Lorenzo River, as rainwater cascaded down from the mountains in the north. The river rose 8 feet above the flood stage marker. In the last 24 hours, the area has seen more than 10 inches of rain.
Colin Eppard, 32, a Watsonville resident and surfer, told the LA Times that as he drove along the San Lorenzo River, he saw big waves that only appear after huge storms.
“Just driving along the coastline and watching the last two big pushes of these storms, I jokingly said to my wife that this could rearrange the whole coastline and it quite literally has,” he said.
Nearly 4,000 residents of Planada — south of San Jose and east of Merced — were issued a mandatory evacuation order early on Tuesday once a nearby creek began to rise 3 feet above its flood stage of 23 feet.
Planada resident Esela Torrez, 24, was woken up by neighbors screaming to leave the house at 3 a.m.
“Water was coming in our house. All we took were our three dogs, three blankets and a pair of clothes,” said Torrez, who has lived with her family in Planada for 12 years.
“It was scary. We live blocks away from where the canal erupted. I never thought our street would be that bad. The water was going down our street with a current, you could see waves,” she added.
Heavy rain has been forecasted throughout Tuesday and Wednesday. California rainfall levels are 400%-600% above average, according to the National Weather Service.
“Our message to Californians is simple: be hyper-vigilant,” said Governor Newsom.
There are 11 shelters statewide where those affected can get food, water, shelter, and additional resources. If conditions worsen, the state has prepared 20 additional standby shelters.