Images and video of California’s floods, landslides and sinkholes

Images and video of California’s floods, landslides and sinkholes

January 14, 2023 at 6:00 am EST

(Video: Washington Post)

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The destruction from the seemingly endless chain of storms over California has unfolded in slow motion, rain-soaked day after day in nearly every corner of the state.

A married couple died in a rock slide in Yosemite National Park. A 5-year-old boy in San Miguel was swept away by the rushing waters. Emergency crews pulled bodies from floodwaters in Sacramento, and countless homes and businesses from Wine Country to suburban Los Angeles were flooded.

After weeks of relentless rain, the toll numbers are emerging. Communities faced flash flooding, landslides, debris damage and a host of other hazards as the storms, known as atmospheric rivers, battered the landscape. At least 18 people have died.

A streak of heavy rain and, in some places, strong winds that began around Christmas continued this week. Some cities in the Bay Area and Central Coast received more than half of their annual rainfall for a normal year in just 16 days, according to the National Weather Service.

The result has not been a clear path of destruction typical of a hurricane, but rather pockets of catastrophic damage scattered across the state’s highly varied terrain—from the coastal mountain ranges to the central lowlands to city centers.

Estimated cumulative precipitation

December 26, 2022 – January 12, in inches

Note: Precipitation in the Sierra Nevada

the mountains are mostly snow, the equivalent of liquid water.

Estimated cumulative precipitation

December 26 – January 12, in inches

Note: Precipitation in the Sierra Nevada

the mountains are mostly snow, the equivalent of liquid water.

Estimated cumulative precipitation

December 26, 2022 – January 12 inches

Note: Precipitation in the Sierra Nevada

the mountains are mostly snow,

equivalent to liquid water.

“This is wave after wave of these so-called atmospheric rivers hitting a very heterogeneous landscape,” said Nicholas Pinter, associate director of the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences. “It’s affecting tens of millions of people, hundreds of miles up and down the West Coast.”

The situation underscores the challenges facing the nation’s most populous state in responding to severe weather crises and preparing for future threats as climate change continues to fuel extreme weather systems like these.

Another round of storms is expected to arrive this weekend. While they are expected to be somewhat weaker than those that fell earlier this month, even a modest amount of rain could bring new threats.

Here’s a survey of some of the devastation in some hard-hit countries, from north to south.

(Video: California Department of Water Resources via Storyful)

Sacramento and the surrounding area saw major flooding.

Networks of small rivers and streams overflowed. Local movements are broken. Stretches of one of the city’s main highways were submerged and farmland was flooded. The flood engulfed cars and some houses were filled with water up to the second floor.

Gusty winds reaching 60 mph sent trees crashing onto rooftops and downed power lines. Officials said more than 1,000 trees have fallen in Sacramento since the beginning of the month. Two people who experienced homelessness were killed when trees fell on their tents, authorities said.

Many trees were already diseased and weakened by the ongoing drought, making them vulnerable to falling. But the rains turned the land into scrub, enabling the winds to pull healthy trees from the ground, roots and all.

Santa Cruz, Capitola and Aptos

(Video: @GaryLeeDance via Storyful)

In Santa Cruz, storm-generated ocean swells destroyed an iconic beach in the surfer enclave.

The blast blew parts of the piers into the sea and threw large amounts of wood and other debris across the sand. In the nearby city of Capitola, the waters split a pier in half.

(Video: @garyleedance via Storyful)

Sections of downtown Santa Cruz — built on the former flood plain of the San Lorenzo River before the city modified the waterway to make it run deeper and faster — experienced major flooding, with water filling homes and businesses by the sea.

In other places, the ground was so waterlogged that chunks of road fell into the bucket.

In the Central Valley, flooding from a small creek caused extensive damage in Merced, a city of 89,000 known as the “Gateway to Yosemite” for its proximity to the national park.

Bear Creek, which flows through the city’s north side, swelled over its banks, prompting evacuations and road closures. Water turned entire neighborhoods into lakes, covering yards, rising onto first floors of homes and sending cars flying.

Mandatory evacuations were also in effect this week for all 4,000 residents in Planada, which was similarly devastated by the flooding of a small river.

Drought conditions resulting from the latest onslaught of storms have so far helped prevent catastrophic flooding on many of the state’s major rivers. But the flooding of minor waterways could portend more serious problems elsewhere if the rains continue, said Pinter, of UC Davis.

“What we’ve seen is a progressive escalation of the flooding issues,” Pinter said. “The big question now is whether you will see large-scale flooding impacts.”

Fresno, Santa Barbara and Montecito

(Video: California Highway Patrol in Fresno via Storyful)

Other parts of the state saw the twin dangers of flooding and landslides.

In Fresno, rocks removed by the rain fell onto a road, endangering motorists.

Landslides also covered roads in Santa Cruz and Montecito, the affluent coastal town that is home to many celebrities, including Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Nearby, in Santa Barbara, landslide hazards prompted authorities to issue evacuation orders on the fifth anniversary of a deadly landslide in the area.

(Video: @DistrictCraig via Storyful)

Wildfires across the state create ideal conditions for mudslides. When fires burn crops on hills and mountains, the soil cannot hold water as easily. Rainfall can send mud, debris and rocks tumbling down.

“You add a drop of water and everything slides down hill,” said Jan Null, a Bay Area meteorologist. “As gravity pulls it downhill, you have an avalanche that can sweep away houses, cars and people.”

(Video: Sandy Eckel via Storyful)

The storm’s effects were also pronounced in California’s urban centers. In Los Angeles, flooding and mudslides closed roads and water poured into tunnels at the city’s historic Station.

(Video: @cornstalkpearl via Storyful)

Emergency crews have set to work digging out mud, clearing debris and repairing roads as residents tear through their homes and belongings, hoping that the coming storms will spare them.

“We’re not out of the woods,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said at a news conference this week. “These conditions are serious and they are deadly.”

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