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3 dead in California as atmospheric river brings heavy rain, mudslides

Vehicles impacted by a mudslide are abandoned on a road as a deadly storm sweeps through Southern California on Monday, bringing torrential rains and high winds that have killed at least three people. Los Angeles recorded more than 10 inches of rain in the last 24 hours, according to the National Weather Service. Photo by Etienne Laurent/EPA-EFE/
1 of 5 | Vehicles impacted by a mudslide are abandoned on a road as a deadly storm sweeps through Southern California on Monday, bringing torrential rains and high winds that have killed at least three people. Los Angeles recorded more than 10 inches of rain in the last 24 hours, according to the National Weather Service. Photo by Etienne Laurent/EPA-EFE/

Feb. 5 (UPI) -- At least three people are dead in California, where an atmospheric river storm saturated much of the state throughout Sunday and into Monday, causing significant flooding and mudslides that forced evacuations and knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of residents.

The National Weather Service called the storm "potentially historic" as more than 10 inches of rain pounded the Los Angeles area with "plenty more to come."

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"Significant flooding is ongoing and expected to expand/worsen as rain continues to fall," the NWS said, as some 38 million people are affected by flood alerts and more than 415,000 homes and businesses are without power.

The torrential rain caused a number of mudslides and toppled trees. The three people reported to have been killed during the severe weather all died as a result of fallen trees.

A 41-year-old man died in Sacramento County on Sunday after a tree fell. Another person died in in the Santa Cruz mountains when a tree fell onto a home.

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"Unfortunately, the resident inside sustained injuries from the tree falling into the home and was pronounced deceased at the scene," the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office told NBC News.

A third person died in Yuba City in Northern California, according to police who said they found the man underneath "a very large redwood tree in his backyard."

Fire officials in the L.A. area have reported more than 130 flooding incidents and nearly 50 mudslides.

Officials have ordered the evacuation of part of the Topanga Canyon after nine inches of rain fell. Evacuations were also ordered for portions of Los Angeles County, which were expected to remain in place until Tuesday.

Mandatory evacuations were ordered, and then canceled Monday, in Santa Barbara where rising rivers shut down a number of roadways.

"Stay away from creeks and flooded roadways," the Santa Barbara Police Department warned in a post on X, showing a video of a raging river spilling over a bridge. "These areas are extremely dangerous."

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a state of emergency Sunday for eight counties which are taking the brunt of the storm -- Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura.

"This is a serious storm with dangerous and potentially life-threatening impacts," Newsom said, urging residents to heed emergency orders and alerts from local officials.

The state mobilized what Newsom said was a record 8,500 state-coordinated emergency response assets to respond to landslides, flooding, travel issues and emergency calls.

"Cal Fire crews have been working around the clock to keep Californians safe," the Office of the Governor of California wrote in a post Monday. "Yesterday, firefighters rescued a man caught in high waters in central California."

A mudslide damaged six homes in Studio City, next to Hollywood, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department. Seven homes had to be evacuated. No one was injured.

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L.A. Mayor Karen Bass toured the aftermath of the Studio City mudslide Monday and urged residents to stay put to stay safe.

"Even when the rains die down, there's still possibilities of significant damage," Bass said. "And we want people to, one, stay inside. This crisis is not over with yet."

Cal Fire crews have been working throughout the state, since the storm started, to clear trees and debris.

"Stay safe during storms by avoiding flooded areas and watching for falling debris," Cal Fire wrote in a post Monday.

Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park closed early Sunday and Monday due to the weather.

"Disneyland Resort Theme Parks closing early again amid State of Emergency," the resort wrote in a post Monday.

The weather also postponed Sunday's final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in Monterey, due to safety concerns, as the golf tournament wrapped-up a day late on Monday.

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"The threat for flash flooding centers on Southern California Monday as a deep upper-level trough/Pacific storm system and associated atmospheric river slow pivots along the West Coast and pushes further inland," the National Weather Service said in a statement.

"Ongoing showers and thunderstorms will continue to produce very heavy rainfall fueled by the influx of anomalously high moisture, favorable upslope flow, and increasing instability."

The NWS said rainfall could reach up to 14 inches in some locations in the Los Angeles Basin region. It said the rainfall will likely create life-threatening conditions and flash flooding in urban areas, forcing small streams to spill over and cause debris flow and mudslides.

The weather service said not even the Mojave Desert will be spared from rainfall.

"A slight risk remains in effect for lingering locally heavy rainfall northwestward toward central California coast and also into portions of the Mojave Desert," the NWS said. "In addition, some strong, gusty winds will remain possible, though wind speeds/gusts should be trending downward overall."

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