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California weather: Three killed as atmospheric river storm brings half a year’s rain


At least three people have died in a winter storm that has brought near-record amounts of rain and destructive mudslides to parts of California.

Two men were killed by fallen trees in Carmichael, a suburb of Sacramento, and in Boulder Creek, to the south of San Jose, as the storm lashed the west coast of the United States.

Police also launched an investigation into the death of a man who was found under a tree in his garden in Yuba City, to the northeast of San Francisco.

The storm was the second so-called Pineapple Express weather system, or atmospheric river storm, to hit the state in the past week.

A garage door is damaged by a storm on a home, Monday, Feb. 5, 2024, in Studio City, California. The second of back-to-back atmospheric rivers took aim at Southern California, unleashing mudslides, flooding roadways and knocking out power as the soggy state braced for another day of heavy rains. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
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A garage door in Studio City, California, is damaged by the storm. Pic: AP

An SUV sits buried by a mudslide, Monday, Feb. 5, 2024, in the Beverly Crest area of Los Angeles. A storm of historic proportions unleashed record levels of rain over parts of Los Angeles on Monday, endangering the city's large homeless population, sending mud and boulders down hillsides dotted with multimillion-dollar homes and knocking out power for more than a million people in California. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
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An SUV sits buried by a mudslide in the Beverly Crest area of Los Angeles. Pic: AP

A car is damaged by debris from a storm Monday, Feb. 5, 2024, in Studio City, California. The second of back-to-back atmospheric rivers took aim at Southern California, unleashing mudslides, flooding roadways and knocking out power as the soggy state braced for another day of heavy rains. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
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A car is damaged by debris. Pic: AP

On Monday, virtually all of southern California was under flash flood warnings, including the Los Angeles area, where up to 25.4cm (10in) of rain had fallen, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

At one measuring station in downtown Los Angeles, 17cm (6.7in) of rain had fallen by Monday afternoon – nearly half the yearly average of 36cm (14.25in).

The NSW said that, across two days, it was the third-wettest period in more than 140 years.

“We’re talking about one of the wettest storm systems to impact the greater Los Angeles area since records began,” Ariel Cohen, chief NWS meteorologist in Los Angeles, said.

“Going back to the 1870s, this is one of the top three.”

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The remains of a home destroyed by a mudslide caused by the ongoing rain storm in Los Angeles, California, U.S., February 5, 2024. REUTERS/Aude Guerrucci
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The remains of a home destroyed by a mudslide. Pic: AP

Kristin Crowley, Los Angeles fire chief, said her crews had responded to at least 130 flooding incidents by Monday morning.

There were around 120 mudslides and debris flows throughout the city on Monday, and at least 25 structures were damaged by heavy rainfall or mudslides as of Monday evening, Ms Crowley said.

About 710,000 people across wider California were without power on Monday evening.

Near the Hollywood Hills, floodwaters carried mud, rocks and household objects downhill through Studio City, damaging at least two homes.

“It looks like a river that’s been here for years – I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Keki Mingus, whose neighbours’ homes were damaged.

Firefighters rescue a dog from a homeless encampment that became surrounded by floodwater in the Santa Ana River during a rainstorm, Monday, Feb. 5, 2024, in San Bernardino, California. (AP Photo/Ethan Swope)
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Firefighters rescue a dog. Pic: AP

Firefighters rescue a woman from a homeless encampment that became surrounded by floodwater in the Santa Ana River during a rainstorm, Monday, Feb. 5, 2024, in San Bernardino, Calif. (AP Photo/Ethan Swope)
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Firefighters rescue a woman. Pic: AP

California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, declared a state of emergency for most of coastal Southern California, while emergency shelters were opened.

Areas of southwestern Arizona were also impacted.

President Biden pledged to provide federal aid.

Atmospheric rivers are weather patterns made from relatively narrow plumes of moisture that form over an ocean and can produce torrential amounts of rain as they move over land.

In these two cases, the atmospheric rivers were called a “Pineapple Express” because they originated near Hawaii.


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