LOS ANGELES (AP) — As another powerful storm bears down on California, a 5-year-old boy was swept away by floodwaters on the state’s central coast Monday and an entire beach community home to Prince Harry, Oprah Winfrey and other celebrities has been ordered to stay safe. To evacuate on the fifth anniversary of the deadly mudslides there.
Dozens of people were left without power, and some schools were closed for the day. Roads and highways turned into raging rivers, trees fell, mudslides and motorists grunted as they hit roadblocks caused by fallen debris. The death toll from the relentless storm rose to 14 on Monday from 12, state officials said, after two people were killed by falling trees.
The search for the boy, who had been missing for nearly seven hours, turned up only his shoe after officials called it off because the water level was too dangerous for divers, officials said. The boy has not been pronounced dead, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tony Cipolla said.
Cal Fire/San Luis Obispo County Assistant Chief Tom Swanson said the boy’s mother was driving a truck when she got stuck in floodwaters just before 8 a.m. near Paso Robles, a small city inland from California’s Central Coast.
Bystanders were able to pull the mother out of the truck, but the boy was thrown from the vehicle and into the river below, Swanson said. There were no evacuation orders in the area at the time.
About 130 miles (209 kilometers) to the south, the entire community of Montecito and surrounding valleys damaged by recent wildfires are under evacuation orders on the fifth anniversary of the landslide. It killed 23 people and destroyed more than 100 houses in the coastal enclave.
In Los Angeles, a sinkhole swallowed two cars in the Chatsworth area Monday night. Two people escaped on their own and firefighters rescued two others with minor injuries using ropes and an aerial ladder, officials said.
The National Weather Service reported rainfall of up to an inch (2.5 centimeters) per hour, with heavy rain expected overnight in the upland area where roads wind along forested hills lined with large homes. Montecito is squeezed between the mountains and the Pacific and is home to celebrities including Rob Lowe and Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Ellen DeGeneres shared an Instagram video She stands in front of a raging creek near the Montecito home where she lives with her wife, actor Portia de Rossi. They were sheltered at the spot as they were on higher ground, he said in the post.
“This is madness!” the talk show host, wearing a hoodie and raincoat, says in the video. “This stream next to our house never flows. It’s probably about nine feet up and about to go up another two feet.
Jamie McLeod’s property was under a Montecito evacuation order, but she said she had no way to “get off the mountain” with a rushing creek on one side and a mudflat on the other. The 60-year-old owner of a Santa Barbara bird sanctuary said one of his employees came to deliver food once a week and was stuck.
McLeod feels lucky that her home sits on higher ground and the power is still on. But he said he was tired of the frequent evacuation orders that followed a deadly landslide five years ago, followed by massive wildfires.
“Relocating is not easy,” McLeod said. “I absolutely love it – except for the tragedy.”
Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said the decision to evacuate about 10,000 people “has no indication that will change overnight based on the continued heavy rainfall.” Streams are overflowing and many roads are flooded.
Northbound lanes of US 101, a major coastal thoroughfare, are expected to be closed through Tuesday. Many other highways and local roads are closed due to rock falls and flooding.
On the coast, evacuation orders were issued for about 32,000 residents living near rain-swollen rivers and streams in Santa Cruz County. The San Lorenzo River was declared at flood stage and drone footage showed several homes sitting in muddy brown water, with the top halves of autos peeking out.
Maria Cucciara, who lives in tiny, flooded Felton, went for a walk to count her blessings after a “big branch harpooned” the roof of her small studio, she said.
“I have two kitties, and we’ve been killed. It’s over a ton,” she said. “So needless to say, it’s very disturbing.”
Nicole Martin, owner of Fern River Resort in Felton, described a more relaxing scene Monday. Her customers were sipping coffee among towering redwood trees and “enjoying the show,” she said, as picnic tables and other debris floated down the swollen San Lorenzo.
Martin said the river is usually about 60 feet (18 meters) below the cabins, but it has flowed up to 12 feet (4 meters) from the cabins.
In Northern California, several districts closed schools and more than 35,000 customers remained without power in Sacramento — down from 350,000 a day earlier after 60 mph (97 kph) winds knocked down majestic trees onto power lines, according to the Sacramento Municipal Utility District. . A homeless man killed by a falling tree in the area was among the new deaths announced on Monday.
The National Weather Service has warned of a “relentless march of atmospheric rivers” — long plumes of moisture extending into the Pacific that could churn up rain and snow. The rain expected over the next two days comes after storms last week knocked out power, flooded streets and battered the coast.
President Joe Biden issued an emergency declaration Monday to support hurricane response and relief efforts in more than a dozen counties.
The weather service issued a flood watch for much of northern and central California, expecting 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 centimeters) of rain through Wednesday in the already saturated Sacramento-area foothills.
In the Los Angeles area, up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) of rain is possible in the foothills late Monday and Tuesday. High surf was also expected.
Much of California remains in severe drought, although the storms have helped fill depleted reservoirs.
Associated Press journalists Johnny Harr and Olga R. in San Francisco. Rodriguez, Amy Taxin in Orange County, Andrew Dalton in Los Angeles, Nick Corey in Aptos, Martha Mendoza in Santa Cruz and Heaven Daley in Felton contributed to this report.