Californians evacuated as huge ‘bomb cyclone’ storm batters US coastline

A damaged Valero gas station in south San Francisco (AFP via Getty Images)
A damaged Valero gas station in south San Francisco (AFP via Getty Images)

Hundreds of people have been evacuated from their homes as a “bomb cyclone” storm slams into the California coast bringing floods and 85mph winds.

The huge storm is expected to strike Montecito, home to Prince Harry and Meghan and Oprah Winfrey, an area where mudslides killed 23 people in 2018.

The high winds have grounded flights in San Francisco, felled trees, closed highways and knocked the power out for more than 100,000 people.

The storm was expected to dump up to 6 inches of rain in parts of the San Francisco Bay Area where most of the region would remain under flood warnings into Thursday night.

In Southern California, the storm was expected to peak in intensity overnight with Santa Barbara and Ventura counties likely to see the most rain, forecasters said.

The Golden Gate Bridge is seen through heavy rain (Getty Images)
The Golden Gate Bridge is seen through heavy rain (Getty Images)

“We anticipate that this may be one of the most challenging and impactful series of storms to touch down in California in the last five years,” said Nancy Ward, the new director of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed said at a news conference that the city was “preparing for a war.”

Crews cleared clogged storm drains, tried to move homeless people into shelters and passed out emergency supplies and ponchos to those who refused to go.

The city distributed so many sandbags to residents that supplies temporarily ran out.

Pedestrians walk around a tree that fell during a storm in downtown Sacramento (REUTERS)
Pedestrians walk around a tree that fell during a storm in downtown Sacramento (REUTERS)

Powerful winds gusting to 85mph or more forced the cancellation of more than 70 flights at San Francisco International Airport and downed trees and power lines.

Firefighters rescued a family after a tree fell onto their car. The fire department reported “large pieces of glass” fell off the Fox Plaza tower near the Civic Center, although no injuries were reported. It was “highly possible” the damage to the skyscraper was wind-related, the department tweeted.

The new storm left more than 100,000 customers in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Central Coast without power.

Among the towns ordered to evacuate was Montecito, where five years ago huge boulders, mud and debris swept down mountains through the town to the shoreline, killing 23 people and destroying more than 100 homes. The town is home to many celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey and Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan.

“What we’re talking about here is a lot of water coming off the top of the hills, coming down into the creeks and streams and as it comes down, it gains momentum and that’s what the initial danger is,” Montecito Fire Department Chief Kevin Taylor said.

On Wednesday, authorities in south Sacramento County found a body in a submerged car — one of at least four victims of flooding from that storm.