Evacuation warnings issued across California as storm causes major flooding

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By Sarah Palmer  & AP
Vehicles submerged on Dillard Road west of Highway 99 in south Sacramento County
Vehicles submerged on Dillard Road west of Highway 99 in south Sacramento County   -   Copyright  AP Photo

Some residents of California have been ordered to evacuate their homes due to the risk of imminent flooding.

Evacuation warnings were in place in rural parts of the region on New Year's Day after a powerful storm brought heavy rain and snowfall to much of the state, bursting river banks and closing main roads.

Emergency services rescued motorists on New Year's Eve and into Sunday morning, and the highway remained closed. Crews on Sunday found one person dead inside a submerged vehicle near Route 99.

Sacramento County authorities issued an evacuation order late Sunday for residents of the low-lying community of Point Pleasant near Interstate 5, citing imminent and dangerous flooding. 

Those living in the nearby communities of Glanville Tract and Franklin Pond were told to prepare to leave before more roadways are cut off by rising water - and evacuation becomes impossible.

"It is expected that the flooding from the Cosumnes River and the Mokelumne River is moving southwest toward I-5 and could reach these areas in the middle of the night," the Sacramento County Office of Emergency Services said on Twitter on Sunday afternoon. "Livestock in the affected areas should be moved to higher ground."

In Sacramento, crews cleared downed trees from roads and pathways. 17,000 were left without power - though this figure was down from more than 150,000 on Saturday, according to a Sacramento Municipal Utility District online map.

The second-wettest day on record

Rainfall in downtown San Francisco hit 13.87 cm on New Year's Eve, making it the second-wettest day on record, behind a November 1994 deluge, the National Weather Service said. 

It was the first of several storms expected to roll across the state in the span of a week. Saturday's system was warmer and wetter, while storms this week will be colder, Hannah Chandler-Cooley, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Sacramento, told AP.

The Sacramento region could receive a total of 10 to 13 centimetres of rain over the week, Chandler-Cooley added.