Severe winter storms in California leave 16 dead

by IANS |

San Francisco, Jan 11 (IANS) At least 16 people have died in a barrage of severe winter storms in California as the most populous state in the US braces for more floods and mudslides.

The death toll reached on 16 Tuesday after two motorists died in a crash earlier in the day on Highway 99 in Tulare county when a tree that had been struck by lightning fell on the road, Xinhua news agency reported.

This toll is higher than the lives lost in wildfires in the past two years combined.

"Our message to Californians is simple: be hyper-vigilant," California Governor Gavin Newsom in a statement, adding that "there are still several days of severe winter weather ahead and we need all Californians to be alert and heed the advice of emergency officials".

President Joe Biden on Sunday night approved Newsom's request for a federal emergency declaration, activating the full weight of the federal government to support the state's storm response and recovery efforts.

Winter storms continued to hit California with heavy rains, causing flooding, road closures, power outages and mandatory evacuations in many regions across the state.

Thousands of people were ordered to evacuate Southern California's Montecito on Monday.

A total of 23 people were killed in January 2018 when a massive mudslide caused by heavy rains swept through the coastal community and destroyed 130 homes.

Newsom noted that Monday marked five years since the deadly Montecito mudslide as the entire coastal community in Santa Barbara County faced evacuations again.

"It's a solemn reminder of how quickly conditions can change," said the Governor.

Over 160,000 homes and businesses in California were still without power as of Tuesday afternoon, according to PowerOutage.us, a website which collects live power outage data from utilities all over the country.

The National Weather Service warned "another high impact heavy precipitation event" on Tuesday across much of California with areas of thunderstorms and very gusty winds.

"Back-to-back atmospheric river events continue to hammer California and pose flooding threats. Radar showed widespread moderate to heavy rainfall across much of California this afternoon," said the agency.

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