Record rainfall from 'atmospheric river' batters California causing mudslides

A vehicle is buried by a mudslide in the Beverly Crest area of Los Angeles. Credit: AP
A vehicle is buried by a mudslide in the Beverly Crest area of Los Angeles. Credit: AP

One of the wettest storms to batter California has killed at least three people and caused severe flooding, mudslides and power cuts.

Half a year's worth of rain deluged Los Angeles on Monday, sending mud and boulders down hillsides dotted with multimillion-dollar homes.

The rainfall is now easing off, but forecasters are warning that more downpours are possible and Southern California remains on high alert for flooding.

The Los Angeles Fire Department said crews had dealt with more than 300 mudslides and rescued dozens of motorists who had become stranded in their vehicles.

The storm plowed through Northern California over the weekend, killing three people who were crushed by falling trees, then lingered over the south of the state.

The torrential rain is fuelled by a weather system known as an "atmospheric river", a narrow corridor of concentrated moisture in the atmosphere.

A large mudslide in the Beverly Crest area of Los Angeles damaged homes and cars. Credit: AP

Near the Hollywood Hills, homes were evacuated as floodwaters carried mud, rocks and household objects downhill through Studio City, officials said.

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

Drake Livingston who lives in the Beverly Crest neighbourhood, was watching a movie around midnight when a friend alerted him to flooding.

“We looked outside and there’s a foot-and-a-half of running water, and it starts seeping through the doors,” said Mr Livingston, whose car was found submerged in mud on Monday morning.

Downtown Los Angeles received nearly 7 inches (18 cm) of rain by Monday night. Shelters added beds for the city’s homeless population of nearly 75,000 people.

The danger is not over despite a projected dip in the rainfall, warned Ariel Cohen, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service in Los Angeles.

“The ground is extremely saturated, supersaturated,” he said.

“It’s not able to hold any additional water before sliding. It’s not going to take much rain for additional landslides, mudslides, rockslides and other debris flows to occur.”

Among those who died were two men killed by fallen trees on Sunday in Carmichael, a suburb of Sacramento, and in Boulder Creek in Santa Cruz County.

President Joe Biden has promised to provide any needed federal help.

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