Nearly 34 million people across California remain under flood watch as wild winter weather batters the western US state.
Sinkholes have swallowed cars, and raging torrents swamped towns and swept away a small boy as the western US state of California has been wracked by more wild winter weather while the next system in a powerful string of storms loomed on the horizon.
Nearly 34 million people across California were under a flood watch on Tuesday, and more than 200,000 homes and businesses were without power because of heavy rains, hail and landslides as the storms continue to wreak havoc.
At least 15 people have died from storms that began late last month, state officials said, but the official death toll did not include a 5-year-old boy who disappeared on Monday in floodwaters or two people killed on Tuesday when lightning knocked a tree onto a big rig on a San Joaquin Valley highway, causing a deadly pileup.
The storm that began on Monday dumped more than a foot of rain at higher elevations in central and Southern California and buried Sierra Nevada ski resorts in more than 1.5 metres of snow.
Rockfalls and mudslides shut down roads, and gushing runoff turned sections of freeways into waterways. Swollen rivers swamped homes and triggered evacuation orders.
Homeless population in precarious situation
Residents of the small agricultural community of Planada, which is along a main highway leading to Yosemite National Park, were ordered to pack up and leave after Bear Creek overflowed and flooded some homes.
A break in the weather on the central coast allowed searchers near San Miguel to look for Kyle Doan, the child who vanished after he and his mother were stranded in a truck in rising waters.
His mother was rescued, but Kyle was swept away, and a seven-hour search on Monday turned up only one of his Nike shoes.
The wet and blustery weather left California's large homeless population in a precarious situation.
At least one homeless person has died, and more than a dozen people were rescued from a homeless encampment on the Ventura River.
While the storms have provided much-needed moisture to offset a withering drought, their fury and frequency have created trouble that is expected to last into next week.
The latest atmospheric rivers — long plumes of moisture stretching out into the Pacific that can drop staggering amounts of rain and snow — began easing in some areas, but flooding and mudslides could follow, even during a brief respite, because the ground remains saturated.
More rain was forecast to arrive on Wednesday in northern California, and then a longer storm system was predicted to last from Friday until Tuesday, January 17.
The weather service issued a flood watch through Tuesday for the entire San Francisco Bay Area, along with the Sacramento Valley and Monterey Bay.
Areas hit by wildfires in recent years faced the possibility of mud and debris sliding down bare hillsides.
Forecasters warned that southwestern California could see 97 kph wind gusts at the peak of the storm, and some areas could receive up to 1.27 centimetres of rain per hour.