In some parts of San Mateo, Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, there are evacuation orders warning of an “imminent threat to life.”
The orders come amid forecasts that parts of the Gulf and Santa Cruz and Santa Lucia mountains could receive up to 10 inches of rain by the end of Thursday. A strong wind warning is also in effect in the bay area until Wednesday afternoon. More than 8 million people are flooded in the state, with a combination of torrential rains and historic mountain snow covering the region.
Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s deputies went door-to-door earlier this week, warning residents to leave the area before the storm, according to a CNN member of KSBW.
“Please be safe and obey the evacuation orders,” the sheriff’s office called on Twitter on Tuesday.
Potential for dangerous mudslides
But it’s not just the strong wind and torrential rain that are the worries. Since the devastating season of forest fires in 2020, significant burn marks remain, meaning there is potential for mudslides. In Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties in August, the CZU lightning complex burned more than 85,000 acres in the fall.
When forest fires engulf land, they destroy vegetation that would otherwise absorb water and keep soil and debris in place. After burning millions of acres in the state last year, the land is now at greater risk from both floods and mudslides.
And mudslides can be extremely dangerous. On average, they kill between 25 and 50 people in the United States each year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Most deaths are the result of “rock falls, debris or volcanic debris,” according to the USGS.
In January 2018, at least 20 people lost their lives, dozens of homes were destroyed and hundreds more were damaged by landslides that devastated Montecito.
Resident Tina Button told KSBW that her family bought an RV specifically for situations like this.
“If we have to leave, we have a place to stay, which we don’t have to pay for or worry about finding,” Button said. “Before, when we evacuated for the fires, we didn’t know where we were going.”
Heavy snow is also expected
Meanwhile, parts of the high Sierra can see up to 5 feet of snow this week, with several areas likely to see up to 7 feet of snow by Friday.
Kaltrans, the state transport agency, said it expected “blizzard and bleaching conditions” in parts of the Sierra.
“We can’t stress this enough – IF YOU DON’T HAVE A DESTINATION BEFORE SUNNY FOR THE NIGHT, A JOURNEY TO THE SIERA IS NOT RECOMMENDED,” Caltrans wrote on Tuesday on Twitter. intelligent travel choice. “
In Butt County, authorities said it had started snowing and warned residents to “take all precautions” when driving.
“Remember to slow down, watch for road hazards such as downed trees, power lines and other hazards,” But County Sheriff’s Office said.
CNN’s Joe Sutton and Sarah Moon contributed to this report.