California storm: Prince Harry’s city vacated

Heavy rain has been lashing California for ten days and was expected to hit the state on Tuesday. They have already killed 12 people and prompted authorities to order the evacuation of Montecito, the wealthy town where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle live.

Located about an hour and a half north of Los Angeles, this beach town is a popular haunt of about 9,000 residents. Actress Jennifer Aniston and TV host Oprah Winfrey own homes worth millions of dollars.

‘Evacuate now!’, urged the city’s firefighters on their website on Monday, advising residents to closely follow various warnings from authorities as ‘the situation is changing rapidly’.

Lack of vegetation

Officials have predicted up to 20 centimeters of rain in 24 hours in the mountains, which are already saturated by storms in the past few days. Enough to make the city, surrounded by mountains, greatly weakened by a fire five years ago, and more vulnerable to landslides.

In 2017-2018, a large fire burned around 1100 km2 in the surrounding area. Hence the area is generally devoid of soil-stabilizing vegetation.

Five years after Monday’s evacuation order, 23 people died in heavy rains that triggered landslides in the city.

Police roadblocks

In Montecito, home to actors Rob Lowe, Larry David, Gwyneth Paltrow and singer Katy Perry, residents were evacuating their homes, but it was not yet clear how many followed the evacuation order. Spokesmen for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex did not respond to a request for comment.

An AFP reporter noted that police had set up roadblocks to prevent anyone from entering the city, where many roads were completely flooded.

“Over the past 30 days, Montecito has experienced between 12 and 20 inches (30 and 50 cm, editor’s note) of rain, depending on location, exceeding our annual average of 17 inches (43 cm, editor’s note),” they recalled. Firefighters on Twitter. ‘This cumulative rainfall puts the community at greater risk of flooding and mudslides.’

On Monday, Ellen DeGeneres, a television host who lives in Montecito, posted a video on Twitter showing the muddy water. “It’s crazy,” she said nervously. ‘That stream next to our house never runs. “We should pay more attention to Mother Nature because Mother Nature is not happy with us,” he added.

‘The worst is ahead of us’

The area wasn’t the only one to be evacuated on Monday in the face of a series of storms currently bearing down on California. In Santa Cruz County, near San Francisco, where a port was destroyed last week, more than 30,000 residents were affected by evacuation orders.

In the past few days, many districts have experienced unprecedented rainfall. The ground is completely covered with water and the US Weather Service (NWS) has issued a flood warning for large parts of California.

In the center of the state, models are predicting, for example, up to 13 centimeters of rain on Monday, on soils that are already completely saturated with water. And rain should continue on Tuesday.

“Two major rain and snow showers are expected in California over the next two days,” the NWS said. “We expect the worst is still ahead of us,” Gov. Gavin Newsom, who declared a state of emergency last week, told reporters Sunday.

By evening, nearly 80,000 homes were without power, according to specialized site PowerOutage.

Although it is difficult to establish a direct link between these storms and climate change, scientists continue to explain that warming is increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.


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