Nick Enero wades through floodwaters while helping his brother salvage items from his Merced, Calif., home on Tuesday as storms continue battering the state. Noah Berger/Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Heavy rain will continue to drench California on Tuesday, weather officials said, as the ongoing parade of storms ravages the state with floods, mudslides, rockslides, paralyzing amounts of mountain snow, severe thunderstorms and the risk of tornadoes.

At least 16 fatalities have been attributed to the onslaught of storms that began in late December. On Monday, flash flooding prompted the evacuation of all of Montecito and other parts of Santa Barbara County and also swept away a 5-year-old boy who remains missing. On Tuesday, two people died in a crash on Highway 99 near Visalia, between Fresno and Bakersfield, when a tree fell on the road, the California Highway Patrol said.

About 210,000 customers had no power across the state Tuesday morning after gusty overnight storms charged from the coast to the Central Valley.

The National Weather Service office in Los Angeles wrote that this was the “most impressive” storm to hit the region since January 2005. Mud and debris flowed down the hills of areas including Studio City, surrounding some homes and forcing some residents to shelter in place. Flash flooding turned streets into streams even in densely populated Beverly Hills and downtown L.A.

A mudslide flooded parts of Studio City, Calif., on Tuesday. Sarah Reingewirtz /The Orange County Register via Associated Press

In Chatsworth, a community in the San Fernando Valley, firefighters rescued two people trapped inside a sinkhole that swallowed two vehicles Monday night.

The two-phase storm system has brought multiple waves of heavy rain and hundreds of reports of flooding across the Golden State since Sunday night. It comes on the heels of several other systems that have been unrelenting for the past two weeks.


California had its driest three-year period on record from October 2019 through September 2022, and yet it remains to be seen how lasting an impact the weather whiplash might have on drought conditions there. The extreme precipitation is filling reservoirs and piling up snowpack, but because the ground is well saturated, much of the fallen rain will end up in the Pacific Ocean.

While Monday produced the heaviest downpours in most areas, forecasters warned of scattered areas of moderate to heavy rain Tuesday, with several more feet of snow possible in the Sierra Nevada. A few severe thunderstorms were also possible in Southern and Central California, “capable of producing damaging winds and perhaps a brief tornado,” the Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center wrote.

“Today’s heavy rain will further exacerbate ongoing flooding while prolonging the risk of flash flooding and mudslides, especially across recent burn scar regions,” the National Weather Service wrote.

Multiple rivers across California had reached flood stage Tuesday and were forecast to soon crest.

In Santa Cruz, which has been battered by both heavy rains and storm surges from the sea, an overnight wind storm ripped out trees and scattered debris across city streets. In the hills above the University of California Santa Cruz, downed power lines closed roads and convoys of PG&E trucks, the state’s main electricity provider, combed through the area removing fallen logs and trying to restore power.

Many businesses in the city’s downtown, which runs on both sides of the San Lorenzo River, had placed sandbags and tarps in front of their doors in anticipation of the river continuing to swell. But the level of the water began to recede before it broke its banks.



Tuesday began with a bang for much of the Golden State as strong to severe thunderstorms – with a pair of nocturnal tornado warnings – jolted residents awake in the middle of the night.

The National Weather Service had been tracking the storms’ progress using lightning-mapping satellites as early as Monday afternoon. Shortly after 11 p.m. Monday, they released a bulletin cautioning that “a strong line of thunderstorms is currently 150 miles off the coastline. This line of thunderstorms will arrive to the coastal waters after midnight.”

Motorists wait outside their vehicles as traffic is backed up on southbound Highway 101 near Carpinteria, Calif., on Tuesday, not far from the affluent city of Montecito. Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press

Those storms moved ashore in California between the Bay Area and Santa Barbara between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. local time Tuesday morning, quickly intensifying as they tracked into the milder Central Valley. San Francisco posted a 69 mph gust as the storms blew through.

The storms pushed east, reaching the state capital in the 3 a.m. hour. Sacramento saw gusts of 54 mph at 3:40 a.m. A severe thunderstorm warning was issued for Sacramento; last year, the local National Weather Service serving the area only issued one such warning.

By then, lightning strikes were prolific by California standards – with combined cloud-to-ground and intracloud discharges making flash rates of 20 or more per minute. A pair of tornado warnings – one for Stockton and one for Modesto – were called, leading up to 4 a.m. In Modesto, it only gusted to 33 mph but still picked up a quick 0.15 inches of rain in an hour. Stockton gusted to 46 mph.


Based on historical records, these were the first overnight tornado warnings ever issued by the National Weather Service in Sacramento; with records dating back to 1986, it appears the latest that any other tornado warning had been in effect was until 9:15 p.m.


The low pressure system that triggered the thunderstorms was responsible for dragging ashore an atmospheric river on Sunday night and Monday, or a narrow filament of deep subtropical moisture with origins as far away as Hawaii. That fire hose of moisture, dubbed the “Pineapple Express,” drenched Southern and Central California and dumped 2 to 3 feet of snow in the Sierra Nevada.

Downtown Los Angeles recorded 2.73 inches of rain, and Bel Air got 5.27 inches in 48 hours. Pasadena picked up 4.03 inches, and Beverly Hills was drenched by 4.58 inches.

In the higher terrain the amounts were double or triple what fell in the lowlands. Nordhoff Ridge in Ventura County, for instance, saw 16.89 inches of rainfall, and San Marcos Pass in Santa Barbara County recorded 16.57 inches. “As far as we know, this is a historical record for the amount of rain in that location,” Eric Boldt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Los Angeles, said at a news conference Monday.

Howard Burman clears mud that washed through his garage after the San Lorenzo River overflowed in Felton, Calif. The area has been battered by heavy rains and storm surges from the sea. Nic Coury/Associated Press

Serious flooding swamped Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. In Ventura County, at least 18 people were rescued while trying to escape rising floodwaters. The Ventura River overflowed its banks and spilled onto U.S. Highway 101. In Fillmore, a mud flow three feet deep swallowed Route 126 and trapped cars and semitrailers.


About 20 homes in Los Osos in San Luis Obispo County were severely damaged by floodwaters.

In Santa Barbara, water pooled three to four feet deep, inundating vehicles and in some cases forcing high water rescues. Evacuation centers were opened and both sides of Highway 101 were shut down.

Santa Barbara County issued shelter-in-place orders for some areas and closed public schools Tuesday. An evacuation order was imposed for Montecito, an affluent town in the county that is home to Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.

In downtown Los Angeles, which was under a flood warning Monday night, the rain submerged parked cars, according to photos that circulated on social media. Flights were delayed at Los Angeles International Airport, a spokeswoman said.

In the Central California town of Paso Robles, a 5-year-old boy was reported missing after the car he and his mother were in was swept into a nearby creek, police said. Neighbors rescued the mother, but the boy was swept downstream toward the Salinas River, according to police. Authorities mounted a search that was halted due to safety reasons.

The death toll from the recent storms rose to 14 as of Monday afternoon, according to the office of Gov. Gavin Newsom – more than the number of lives lost to wildfires in the past two years combined. President Biden agreed to Newsom’s request for a declaration of a state of emergency, paving the way for more federal assistance.

Additional storms in the forecast later this week and next week spell more flood threats, though state water resources officials said many large reservoirs still have capacity for more rainwater, with statewide storage at about 78 percent of average.

Forecasters predict a break in the stormy pattern by around Jan. 20, according to the Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center.

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