California orders storm evacuations, leaving power outage

In this photo released by Caltrans District 1, crews remove multiple downed trees that intersect the 101 Freeway in Humboldt County, near Trinidad, Calif., on Jan. 4, 2023. (Caltrans District 1 via AP)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California officials ordered evacuations in a high-risk coastal area where mudslides killed 23 in 2018 as a massive storm loomed over the state Wednesday, packing strong winds and heavy rain that threatened to cause widespread flooding. and left more than 110,000 people without power.

The storm was expected to dump up to 6 inches (15.4 centimeters) of rain in parts of the San Francisco Bay Area, where flood advisories are in effect through Thursday night. In southern California, the storm is expected to peak overnight and early Thursday with Santa Barbara and Ventura counties bearing the brunt, according to forecasters.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed explained in a statement that the city was “preparing for a war.” Crews cleared clogged storm drains, tried to move the homeless to shelters and handed out emergency supplies and ponchos to those who refused to leave.

Strong winds, gusting to 85 mph (136 km/h) or more, forced the cancellation of more than 70 flights at San Francisco International Airport and downed trees and power lines. Firefighters rescued a family after a tree fell on their car and reported the fall of “large pieces of glass” from the Fox Plaza tower, near the Civic Center, although no injuries were reported. It is “highly possible” that the damage to the skyscraper was wind related, the department added in a tweet.

The new storm knocked out power to more than 100,000 customers in the San Francisco Bay Area and the state’s central coast.

The storm is one of three phenomena known as atmospheric river storms that have hit drought-stricken California in the past week. Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency to allow for a quick response and help clean up after another just days ago.

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