LOS ANGELES ( Associated Press) – California was trying to clear debris from multiple storms on Wednesday and repair widespread damage with rainfall lacking in many areas, although thunderstorms could continue in the northern region and into Friday. A powerful front was expected to hit.
At least 17 people died in the storm that hit the state. The number was likely to rise, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday during a visit to the picturesque town of Capitola on the San Cruz Coast, which was badly hit by storm surge and flooded creeks last week.
According to officials, the dead included the driver of a pickup truck and a motorcyclist who died after being struck by lightning on a tree on Tuesday.
The governor said more than half of California’s 58 counties have been declared disaster areas.
The most recent storm, which began on Monday, was part of a series that began late last month. Adam Smith, a disaster specialist with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said the damage could cost more than $1 billion to repair, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Workers worked to reopen major highways cut by rockslides, floods or mudslides, while more than 10,000 people who were ordered to leave coastal cities in the center of the state were given the green light to return home. was given.
Among those towns was Montecito, a wealthy community in Santa Barbara County where Prince Harry and other celebrities live. Five years ago, a mudslide killed 23 people and destroyed more than 100 homes at the site.
However, thousands of people living near rain-inundated streams and rivers have been placed under evacuation orders. In the San Joaquin Valley, floodwaters from Bear Creek inundated the city of Merced and part of neighboring Planada, a small farming community located along a highway leading to Yosemite National Park.
Planada’s 4,000 residents were ordered to leave on Tuesday morning. Surrounding areas were submerged in water, with cars being submerged up to the roof. What residents carried on their backs to salvage when they went out in the rain.
Other evacuations were ordered in Monterey County due to the dam breach.
The atmospheric river phenomenon – a long line of moisture that extends across the Pacific and can cause abundant rain and snowfall – has subsided in some areas. Light to moderate rain and a few thunderstorms are expected Wednesday across northern California. A strong storm system will persist in the area through Friday, January 17.
According to the US Drought Observatory, despite the rain, most states remained in extreme or severe drought conditions.
NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad said, although the storms may provide some local relief, “they will not solve the drought challenges in the long term.”
Associated Press writers John Antzack and Stephanie Dazio in Los Angeles and Jenny Haar and Olga R. Rodriguez, Kathleen Ronayne in Sacramento, Noah Berger in Merced and Seth Borenstein in Denver contributed to this report.