At least two dead, thousands evacuated in latest California storm

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Another powerful storm pummeled California overnight into Saturday, forcing thousands to evacuate and resulting in at least two deaths, while causing a levee to give way in coastal Monterey County.

“We were hoping to avoid and prevent this situation, but the worst case scenario has arrived with the Pajaro River overtopping and levee breaching at about midnight,” Luis Alejo, a Monterey County supervisor, said Saturday on Twitter.

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On Friday, state emergency services director Nancy Ward announced that the storm had already claimed at least two lives.

Images posted on Twitter by the state’s National Guard account showed guardsmen rescuing residents trapped in their cars by high water.

At least one road was washed away in Santa Cruz County, just north of Monterey.

Residents in several towns, mostly in the north, have been ordered to evacuate.

An unusually intense and seemingly endless series of storms has battered California for weeks.

The latest storm was expected to dump as much as nine inches (23 centimeters) of rain on already saturated grounds.

Part of a powerful atmospheric river known as a “Pineapple Express”-- for the warm, subtropical moisture it brings from Hawaii -- this latest storm will speed the melting of the enormous snowpack that has built up in higher elevations.

The resulting runoff threatens to aggravate already serious flooding.

US President Joe Biden on Friday approved an emergency declaration that clears the way to expedite federal aid to the western state.

Governor Gavin Newsom said California was “deploying every tool we have to protect communities from the relentless and deadly storms battering our state.”

Storms in January were blamed for the loss of 20 lives.

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