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Latest California storm leaves 5 dead from fallen trees

A new onslaught of rain, wind and snow has battered California, spawning a rare tornado in Los Angeles and leaving at least five people dead from fallen trees.

APTOPIX California Storms Gales toppled trees during the 12th such storm to sweep the west coast since late December.
March 24, 2023
By Steve Gorman and Brendan O'Brien
24 March 2023

The latest bout of harsh, wintry weather to lash California has drifted into neighbouring US states as authorities reported at least five storm-related deaths in and around San Francisco, all from fallen trees.

As California’s onslaught of rain, wind and mountain snow subsided, downed power lines from Tuesday’s storm left more than 92,000 homes and businesses without electricity as of Wednesday afternoon, while lingering floods kept 14,000 people under evacuation orders.

Nearly 48,000 others statewide were warned to be ready to flee to higher ground in the event rain-swollen streams overflow their banks or storm-weakened levees fail, according to the California Office of Emergency Services.

The storm was the product of yet another in a recent succession of “atmospheric rivers”, immense airborne currents of dense water vapour carried aloft from the ocean and flowing overland in bouts of heavy rain and snow.

It marked the 12th such storm to sweep the west coast since late December, the latest one notable for extreme winds that accompanied the precipitation and in some places wreaked the most havoc.

Five people were killed by trees toppled by high winds across California’s Bay area on Tuesday – two in San Francisco, one in Oakland and one each in Contra Costa County and San Mateo County.

At least two of the victims died in their vehicles, and one was crushed inside a tent.

In the Los Angeles suburb of Montebello, a rare tornado spawned by the storm early on Wednesday heavily damaged nearly a dozen buildings and a number of vehicles and left one person with minor injuries.

More than 20 other storm-related fatalities have been tallied across California from previous episodes of violent weather this winter.

California’s exceptionally wet winter created an abrupt reversal for a state preoccupied in recent years by drought and wildfires – a swing in weather extremes that experts say is symptomatic of human-induced climate change.

As rain, snow and winds dissipated across California on Wednesday, the storm front crept east across parts of Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, the weather service said. 

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