Millions are on flood alert as California battles devastating storms.





This weekend, a flood watch is in effect for around 25 million people in California as the latest in a string of deadly storms drenches the state.

At least 19 people have died as a result of flooding in many waterways, and thousands more people have been ordered to leave their homes.

Locals in the village of Montecito, which is 135 miles (84 km) northwest of Los Angeles, claim that the rain makes their trauma worse.

Many are concerned that a mudslide that killed 23 people here in 2018 could happen again.

Rita Bourbon believes that the Italian stonemasons saved her life. Her home was built more than a century ago by skilled builders, and she likens it to a castle.

She made it through the storm five years ago, crying within.

Daughter and some friends as they listened to the sound of boulders and other houses ripped from their foundations crashing into her home

The next day, the neighbourhood up the coast from Los Angeles was wrecked and almost two dozen were dead, including her neighbour whom she found in her garden in the mud.

It’s a sound I used to love,” she says of the creek burbling in her garden, which is now bursting with ripe citrus and persimmon trees, as a blue heron drinks from her muddy pool.

Montecito creek became a violent, raging flow again this past week, prompting fire officials to issue a “Leave Now!” warning to the entire community, which includes some of California’s most famous residents such as Oprah Winfrey, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

The evacuation order in Montecito has been lifted, but residents remain on edge. And with so much of the land already saturated, the risk of flooding and landslides is very real.

Abe Powell is the co-founder of the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade, formed in 2018 to mobilise volunteers to clean up after the deadly mudslide.

This week, Powell led volunteers around the community, filling sandbags and digging trenches. He took us on a perilous drive up a narrow mountain road where giant boulders and mud blocked access to some homes.

“We don’t want to hang around here,” he said, looking at the fresh boulders.

Film producer Steve McGlothen is one of the volunteers. He has lived in the area for half a century and in his cliff top home for 27 years.

Helping others, he said, takes his mind off the problems at his own property and the despair he feels as the rain keeps falling. Plastic sheets cover the hillside, which slid away for the first time this week – an attempt to stop this latest deluge from making the slide worse.

“We’re looking at earth that has never moved,” he said. “Close to 50 years – this has never moved. It’s never been a problem before.”

The Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, joined the volunteers filling sandbags in Santa Barbara. He says the area is a “hot spot” he’s concerned about in the coming days.

“We’ve experienced some 24 trillion gallons of water falling on this state in the last 16 days in the middle of a mega drought,” Governor Newsom told the BBC. He says California needs to reimagine the way it manages water, because the infrastructure here was built for a time which no longer exists.


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