Massive California storm brings flooding and triggers evacuations

By Adrienne Vogt and Aditi Sangal, CNN

Updated 7:29 p.m. ET, January 10, 2023
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3:24 p.m. ET, January 10, 2023

This map shows just how much rain California has received in the last 2 weeks

From CNN's Renee Rigdon

In the last two weeks, parts of California have received more than 25 inches of rain, with some areas receiving 35 inches or more.

Here's a look at how much precipitation the state has received in the last 14 days:

Renee Rigdon
Renee Rigdon

3:06 p.m. ET, January 10, 2023

What the atmospheric river event affecting California looks like from space

The NOAA Satellite & Information Service released a stunning satellite timelapse of the atmospheric river event affecting California, hitting the state hard with flood, rainfall and mudslide.

Take a look:

2:16 p.m. ET, January 10, 2023

Search for missing 5-year-old boy swept away by floodwaters resumes in San Luis Obispo

From CNN's Stella Chan

Officials in San Luis Obispo County resumed their search efforts for a 5-year-old boy who was swept away during Monday’s storm. 

The search for Kyle Doan on Monday was suspended due to unsafe weather conditions for first responders, according to a news release from the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office.

“A break in the intense storms is allowing today's search which will involve all available resources of the Sheriff's Office including the USAR (Underwater Search and Rescue) Team and air operations. The conditions, however, remain extremely dangerous. The water level is high and continues to be fast moving,” the office said, according to the release. 

The office urged the public to leave the search operation to the professionals so resources do not have to be diverted to volunteers if they are swept away. 

2:37 p.m. ET, January 10, 2023

2 motorists dead in central California due to downed tree

From CNN's Stella Chan

(KMPH)
(KMPH)

Two motorists in California’s San Joaquin Valley are dead after a tree fell on State Route 99 in Visalia, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The weather-related death toll in recent storms has now climbed to 16. 

A large eucalyptus tree fell on a Ford pickup truck around 5:50 a.m. PT, killing the driver, according to CHP Officer Steve Beal. The tree, downed by the powerful storm, blocked all northbound lanes of the freeway and several crashes ensued, he said. A motorcyclist crashed into the tree and died. He was a 58-year-old man from the nearby town of Cutler, Beal said.  

He had no further details on the identity of the drivers or the number of crashes related to the downed tree. 

Beal said it is not clear if the tree was struck by lightning before it fell onto the road. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday evening said winter storms had claimed the lives of 14 Californians.

12:44 p.m. ET, January 10, 2023

California’s wild swings in weather, explained

From CNN's Rachel Ramirez

California has always been known for its Mediterranean climate — dry summers and wet winters that prime the landscape for a strong agricultural economy, renowned wineries and perfect weather for tourists from around the country.

But climate scientists say these same factors also make California vulnerable to extreme changes in climate and weather patterns, causing them to swing like a pendulum from drought to floods — a sort of “weather whiplash.”

Human-caused climate change is not just increasing the severity of extreme weather around the country, but it is also interrupting the usual patterns and increasing the potential for this weather whiplash, especially in California, to occur more often.

The parade of atmospheric river storms currently battering California is all happening against the backdrop of a yearslong, climate change-fueled megadrought that has drained the state’s reservoirs and triggered water shortages.

But while these storms usher in much-needed rainfall and snow to the dried-up state, the parched landscape is less able to absorb all the rain, causing widespread flooding due to the storm’s intensity and back-to-back nature.

2018 study in the journal Nature found that these huge swings in weather could occur twice as frequently in the future, with the most frequent swings in Southern California.

Extremely wet years are expected to become 2.5 times more likely by the end of this century, researchers found, while extremely dry years will occur up to 140% more frequently.

Climate scientists told CNN it’s time for California to rethink how it manages the wet times as the multi-year drought continues. How can it harness that water to be used in the dry months? Scientists suggest relying less on levees and letting the land around rives flood safely so the water has a chance to seep into underground aquifers.

12:34 p.m. ET, January 10, 2023

Sections of freeway washed over in Ventura County

Parts of Highway 101 were left a muddy mess amid flooding in California's Ventura County, according to CNN's Kyung Lah.

The freeway was washed over by water and caked in mud on Tuesday morning, leaving the road completely shut down in the area.

The Ventura River is below the freeway, which rose 17 feet in just 12 hours on Monday, Lah reported.

See it here:

1:25 p.m. ET, January 10, 2023

Large sinkhole opens up across a road in Los Angeles County, swallowing at least 2 cars

A large sinkhole opened up in Los Angeles' Chatsworth neighborhood, cutting across a road, the Los Angeles Fire Department said in a Monday statement. Images from the scene showed at least two cars swallowed in the massive hole.

Four people were trapped in the sinkhole, two of whom freed themselves prior to LAFD's arrival and were uninjured. The other two people had minor injuries and needed immediate rescue as road conditions continued to deteriorate, according to the release.

The sinkhole is "fully cutting across the southbound lane of Iverson Road," and the road is now fully closed, it added.

Here's an aerial view of the scene:

Two vehicles are seen in a sinkhole in Chatsworth, California, on January 10.
Two vehicles are seen in a sinkhole in Chatsworth, California, on January 10. (David Swanson/Reuters)

12:10 p.m. ET, January 10, 2023

California lieutenant governor tells Golden State residents to prepare for more rain

From CNN's Stella Chan

California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis is asking residents to stay alert as the Golden State continues to face battering rainstorms.

“We have had five atmospheric rivers come into California over two weeks,” Kounalakis said to CNN’s Kate Bolduan. “Everything is wet. Everything is saturated. Everything is at a breaking point and there is more rain coming.” 

She encouraged everyone to stay vigilant as “every corner of the state is touched by these extreme events.” Kounalakis said people should evacuate when necessary and to be prepared with fresh batteries and flashlights. 

Kounalakis recalled the Montecito mudslides in 2018 and said that is part of the reason for such caution in Santa Barbara County but underscored the wide reach of the storm.

“The threats are across the state right now and we see a lot of internal flooding in neighborhoods. Parts of the Central Valley are very flat so once you’ve had all this water and the drainage systems are full, when you get more water it starts to bring that level up and getting into people’s houses,” she said.  

“It only takes six inches of water to lose control of a car to be knocked over. In 12 inches, cars start floating away and you’ve heard that creeks that have risen 14 feet just in the last day and in certain areas we’ve had over a foot of rain – just in the last 48 hours. So it is unbelievable,” Kounalakis said. 

She said the climate crisis is causing extreme weather events. Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency and first responders are working overtime, she said.

“But is just a big task. It’s hard to be prepared for something this extreme, and again, one weather event on top of another the last two weeks and looking at another week or more of rain,” Kounalakis said. 

11:58 a.m. ET, January 10, 2023

Heavy rain floods intersection and homeless encampment in Los Angeles

From CNN’s Caroll Alvarado

Drivers drove through flooded streets Monday night in Los Angeles, with floodwaters that reached a homeless encampment near the intersection of Willoughby and La Brea Avenues.

“I saw water overflowing onto the curbs,” Los Angeles resident Alan C. said. “The intersections at La Brea had pools of water.”