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Rescuers search for a 5-year-old swept away by floodwaters in California storms

Local resident Fidel Osorio rescues a dog from a flooded home in Merced, California, on Tuesday. Relentless storms were ravaging California again Tuesday.
Josh Edelson
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AFP via Getty Images
Local resident Fidel Osorio rescues a dog from a flooded home in Merced, California, on Tuesday. Relentless storms were ravaging California again Tuesday.

More than 100,000 customers were without power and millions were under flood warnings as powerful storms continue to hit California. The death toll from recent storms is now up to 17.

A 5-year-old boy was swept away in floodwaters as another powerful storm battered California on Monday, according to local authorities.

A search for the boy was reportedly called off after eight hours because of dangerous water levels, said Toni Davis, a spokesperson for Cal Fire in San Luis Obispo County.

The boy's mother was driving a truck around 7:50 a.m. near San Miguel, a central town roughly 35 miles inland from the coast. The vehicle became stranded in floodwaters while trying to cross a river.

The mother escaped the truck with the help of bystanders, but the boy was swept downstream. A flash flood warning was later issued for the region.

A search for the boy — which involved 17 firefighters, professional divers and a helicopter — uncovered only his shoe, the Cal Fire spokesperson confirmed. The boy has not been declared dead.

More than 200,000 residents are without power

Road workers close access to the 101 Freeway as a result of the San Ysidro Creek overflowing due to heavy rainfall in the area Monday.
Apu Gomes / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
Road workers close access to the 101 Freeway as a result of the San Ysidro Creek overflowing due to heavy rainfall in the area Monday.

Elsewhere in the state, two people were killed by falling trees on Monday, causing the collective death toll from the recent storms to climb to 14, according to the Associated Press.

As of Tuesday morning, more than 200,000 residents were without power after high wind speeds sent trees crashing into power lines. School districts across the state closed as creeks overflowed, transforming roads into rivers riddled with debris.

Some regions of the drought-stricken state saw rainfall rates as high as 1 inch per hour on Monday, the National Weather Service said.

Evacuation orders underway in Montecito and Santa Cruz

More than 10,000 people are under evacuation orders in the wealthy enclave of Montecito, home to celebrities like Oprah and Prince Harry.

Scars from recent wildfires still streak the community's surrounding canyons. Monday's evacuation orders came on the fifth anniversary of a mudslide that killed 23 people in the region.

Comedian and Montecito resident Ellen DeGeneres posted videos of the damage to social media, saying she was told to shelter in place given her house is on higher ground.

"This is crazy," she says, pivoting the camera to show rushing water. "This creek next to our house never overflows, ever. It's probably about nine feet up and it's going to go another two feet up."

In Los Angeles, four people escaped after a sinkhole swallowed two cars on Monday night, local media reported. Another sinkhole in Santa Barbara caused a road closure impacting 500 homes.

In Santa Cruz County, 250 miles to the north, roughly 32,000 residents were ordered to evacuate after the San Lorenzo River was declared at flood stage. Photos from the area showed homes and cars peeking out like islands from muddy brown water.

President Biden issued an emergency declaration on Monday to bring federal support to relief efforts in more than a dozen counties.

More storms expected on Tuesday and Wednesday

A resident walks through a flooded neighborhood Monday in Guerneville, Calif. The San Francisco Bay Area continues to get drenched by powerful atmospheric river events that have brought high winds and flooding rains.
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
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Getty Images
A resident walks through a flooded neighborhood Monday in Guerneville, Calif. The San Francisco Bay Area continues to get drenched by powerful atmospheric river events that have brought high winds and flooding rains.

This week marks the third in a row that relentless storms have battered the coastal state. Nearly all of California has seen average rainfall totals 400-600% above their average values, the National Weather Service said.

The NWS is still warning of a relentless onslaught of atmospheric rivers, which are likely to bring another bout of rain to Southern California on Tuesday.

Los Angeles could see as much as 7 inches. The Bay Area should prepare for high wind speeds and pea-sized hail.

Another deluge is expected to hit the Northern parts of the state on Wednesday, with snowfall in the Sierra Nevada mountains increasing the risk of avalanches, the NWS says.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Emily Olson
Emily Olson is on a three-month assignment as a news writer and live blog editor, helping shape NPR's digital breaking news strategy.
James Doubek
James Doubek is an associate editor and reporter for NPR. He frequently covers breaking news for NPR.org and NPR's hourly newscast. In 2018, he reported feature stories for NPR's business desk on topics including electric scooters, cryptocurrency, and small business owners who lost out when Amazon made a deal with Apple.