Here’s the latest on this tragedy.
Amid California’s historic drought, an even rarer weekend downpour that calmed wildfires also washed away a 30-foot bridge that carries commuters to Arizona.
An elevated area on Interstate 10 collapsed early Sunday evening near Southeastern California’s Desert Center, leaving a pickup truck trapped underneath. Firefighters launched a cut and rescue operation and the driver was taken to hospital with minor injuries, authorities told the Associated Press. California Highway Patrol have since stopped eastbound traffic near Joshua Tree National Park, a roadway from Palm Springs to the Arizona border.
Ezekiel Ekinaka, 1, with his parents Aaron and Juliet, wears a raincoat as he experiences rain for the second time in his life, at the San Clemente, Calif. (Mindy Schauer/The Orange County Register via AP)
Drivers were stranded for miles, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
“We are so stuck out here,” 53-year-old commuter Pamala Browne told the AP Sunday evening. “There’s no end to the cars that are stuck out here.”
The two-day rainstorm in southern and central California brought flash floods, thunder and lightning along the state’s drought-stricken breaches, forcing authorities to close a 70-mile stretch over the weekend.
Beachgoers were warned about strong surf and rip currents and swimmers were urged to steer clear of storm drainage flowing in the sea.
In this photo provided by the CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Department, emergency crews respond after a pickup truck crashed into the collapse of an elevated section of Interstate 10, Sunday, July 19, 2015, in Desert Center, Calif. (Chief Geoff Pemberton/CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire via AP)
Many Southern California residents were without power Sunday afternoon.
Outdoor concerts were canceled. The San Diego Padres had to postpone Sunday’s game and the Los Angeles had its first rainout in two decades.
By Sunday night, the rainstorm had caused a debris flow that trapped several residents in Silverado Canyon near the Santa Ana Mountains.
“We had a pretty significant mud and debris flow that went into the creek and then across Silverado Canyon Road, making the road impassable,” Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Steve Concialdi told the Los Angeles Times. “We had a 1,000-acre brush fire back in September, so we have a pretty large burn scar,” he added. “So when we do have significant rain, that mud and debris come downhill toward the road, toward homes.”
Though Concialdi told the newspaper no homes were in danger.
The rainfall broke records in at least 11 areas, including Los Angeles and San Diego, for July, which is typically considered Southern California’s driest month.
“It looks like there’s a good chance the monthly record is going to go up,” National Weather Service meteorologist Joe Sirard said. “Really, this is super historic.”
On Saturday, Los Angeles, for instance, got 0.36 inches of rain, which beat its record on July 14, 1886, when it got 0.24 inches, Sirard told the Associated Press.
National Weather Service forecaster David Sweet told the Los Angeles Times that Los Angeles, in particular, is feeling the aftereffects of tropical storm Dolores.
The weekend rain did help contain several California wildfires, including Friday’s 3,500-acre blaze that crawled through Cajon Pass and jumped across Interstate 15, forcing commuters to flee their vehicles. The flames destroyed 20 cars before 40 MPH winds carried it to a nearby community called Baldy Mesa, where it torched seven homes and 44 more vehicles, authorities told the AP.
A vehicle proceeds slowly through water covering a road following a brief downpour in northwest Moreno Valley, Calif, Sunday, July 19, 2015. (John Bender/The Press-Enterprise via AP)
“People were screaming,” Russell Allevato, who was on vacation from Michigan with his family, told CBS San Francisco over the weekend. “It was just crazy.”
“We were surrounded by flames,” he said. “They were to the left, then in front of us and they came around to the right. We were in a big horseshoe in the middle.”
Firefighters worked to beat the blaze as light rain help them to gain ground.
“It’s pretty much burnt desert,” witness Keishawna Williams told the station.
Two people suffered minor smoke inhalation, authorities told the AP.
U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Lyn Sieliet told the Los Angeles Times the rainstorm could become blessing or curse as fire remnants continue to smolder.
“If it brings wind and lightning, it could make things more difficult for us,” she said. “But if it brings light, steady rain, that’s going to be the best-case scenario.”
Officials said the showers are expected to continue through Monday.
Lindsey Bever is a national news reporter for The Washington Post. She writes for the Morning Mix news blog. Tweet her: @lindseybever
FLAT GAP, Ky. (AP) — As the Johnson family dug through the wreckage where their trailers once stood, they found a mud-soaked box of family photos, cherished heirlooms and a tiny porcelain statue of Jesus, but not what they were looking for.
Scott Johnson, 34, was swept away two days ago, trying to save his grandmother as a flash flood Monday ravaged this rural eastern Kentucky community.
He is still missing. Three others are confirmed dead, and the fate of four more remains uncertain. Families reported them missing, but they could be stranded in their homes, without power or phone service.
Rescue teams are slogging through knee-deep mud, door-to-door, across the rugged Appalachian terrain, painting orange “X”s on each structure they search. Desperate families roam the banks of the swollen creek, looking for their lost loved ones.
Kevin Johnson last saw his son Scott wading through rushing floodwater with his 74-year-old grandmother on his back.
Scott Johnson had already guided his father, uncle and sister from the raging flood that inundated their cluster of trailers. He turned back one last time to save his grandmother, called Nana, and a 13-year-old family friend.
“We told him, ‘You can’t make it,'” his father recalled. “He said, ‘I’m going to get her out of that trailer.”
Standing in a cemetery on a hill overlooking the creek that had swallowed his son, Kevin Johnson was so overcome with grief he sometimes struggled to speak. He had watched his son push the boy to safety in the branches of a catalpa tree and hoist his Nana onto his back, only to be swept away.
“Scott wouldn’t turn her loose, that’s why he died,” said Veronica Marcum, Scott Johnson’s sister.
The grandmother, Willa Mae Pennington, was found dead Tuesday among debris from the family’s shattered mobile homes, Johnson County Coroner J.R. Frisby confirmed.
Frisby identified the second known casualty as Herman Eddie May Sr., 65. May was driving alone in a sport-utility vehicle when floodwaters from Patterson Creek started to sweep him away. He drowned after he got out and was swallowed by the rising water, Frisby said.
The body of Richard Blair, 22, of the Flat Gap area, was found Wednesday afternoon, on a creek bank in a pile of tree debris and downstream from the rubble of a broken mobile home, the coroner said.
Rescue crews battled swarming mosquitoes, oppressive humidity and mud so thick it sucked off shoes. Utility crews lined the roads, trying to restore power to thousands still without it. A convoy of National Guard vehicles and heavy equipment rolled through the hardest-hit areas.
Randall Mulkey, chief of Allen Volunteer Fire Department in nearby Floyd County, came to help with the search. He said he’s seen homes splintered into rubble, others split in half and cars strewn in places he never could have imagined. Tromping through the mud is exhausting he said, and it’s devastating to see people’s belongings — clothes, toys, photographs — scattered everywhere, some piled 10 feet high.
As the water receded, a crew found a car upside down and partially submerged in the creek. They called for the jaws of life to tear it open and see if anyone had perished inside. But the car’s owner arrived just in time, and told the crew it had floated there, unoccupied, from her home a mile away.
“Thanks for not being in it,” said Flatwoods Police Officer Justin Stevens. “We really didn’t want to see that.”
Seven cadaver dogs are aiding in the search, which stretches more than 8 miles from the town of Flat Gap south to Staffordsville — an area with 500 homes and 1,200 residents about 120 miles east of Lexington, police said at a news conference. Authorities estimate more than 150 homes were destroyed.
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear declared a state of emergency, giving local officials immediate access to state resources to assist in recovery efforts. Lt. Gov. Crit Luallen toured the destruction Wednesday and called it “gut wrenching.”
“I think all of us who are here and who have seen this in person recognize this as a truly devastating natural disaster,” Luallen said. “People have lost everything.”
Families returned to the ruins of their homes to try to save what little they could. Church groups and others passed out sandwiches and water, neighbors banded together to clear heavy debris and police said they hoped there still might be some happy endings.
Johnson County Deputy Sheriff Terry Tussey spotted a Chihuahua, alone and trembling, pacing a pile of debris on the other side of a creek.
“She was dancing like she wanted to come across the creek but couldn’t do it,” he recalled. He trudged through the muck to find a safe crossing. Then he coaxed the little dog to him and cradled it back to his car. He drove around the afternoon with the tan dog in his lap, looking for its owner.
A shelter was opened at the Paintsville recreation center, though many displaced residents turned to families and friends. Many who lost everything said they felt lucky to be alive.
Robin Cisco sifted through the remnants of her daughter’s trailer, digging her grandson’s clothes and toys from the mud and rubble. The family barely got away: Her daughter ran from the trailer with her 18-month-old son as the storm hit and water started rising.
“They got out and they’re OK, that’s all we were worried about,” Cisco said. “All this other stuff can be replaced.”
Associated Press writers Claire Galofaro and Rebecca Reynolds Yonker in Louisville, Kentucky, contributed to this report.
When a storm named Agnes arrived in Pittsburgh in June 1972, she was the first tropical storm of the season and drenched this region with more than eight inches of rain.
Forty three years ago this summer, mountaineers in West Virginia lost their shacks and affluent people in New York’s affluent Westchester County experienced damage to their fancy homes because of the wettest tropical cyclone on record in Pennsylvania’s history.
On June 24, 1972, President Richard Nixon declared five states disaster areas: Pennsylvania, Maryland, Florida, Virginia and New York.
Two weeks before Agnes blew into town, a series of rains swept across New York and Pennsylvania, completely saturating the ground so that it was unable to absorb additional water.
In Pennsylvania, the storm left 220,000 people homeless. Damage and death toll were the highest in Pennsylvania, with more than $2 billion in losses and 50 fatalities.
Harrisburg was inundated; 8,500 people there had to leave their homes.
In Wilkes-Barre, 45,000 people went to emergency shelters; the community’s water supply was contaminated and it lost phone service due to the raging Susquehanna River.
The Ohio River swamped the city of Wheeling, W.Va.
But for the construction of 10 flood control dams that ring Pittsburgh, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimated, the waters that inundated the Golden Triangle would have been two feet higher than that of the famous March 1936 flood on St. Patrick’s Day.
Hurricane Agnes inflicted $45 million in damage on Pittsburgh. If the flood control dams had not been built, the Corps of Engineers, estimated, damage would have soared past the $1 billion mark. Erie was the only Pennsylvania county to be spared.
Pennsylvania’s climate, location and terrain all played a role. A wet weather state subject to sudden and violent storms, Pennsylvania typically receives 40 thunderstorm days each year. The state also lies in a hurricane pathway and its steep valleys channel runoff from storms.
Taking into account damage in all five states, Hurricane Agnes killed 122 people, destroyed 5,000 homes and damaged 100,000 more, and left 400,000 people homeless, according to Gen. Richard H. Groves, a corps engineer for the North Atlantic Division who testified before Congress.
Half of Pennsylvania’s National Guard was mobilized to do relief work and used helicopters and boats to rescue people.
Gov. Milton Shapp knew all about the flood because the Georgian mansion he occupied, which is set on land overlooking the Susquehanna River, had two feet of water in it, covering the home’s first floor.
*A note on the images: The Pittsburgh Press librarians were known to fold oversized prints in half to fit them into standard-sized archival envelopes. Thus, many of the paper’s beautiful large photo prints are permanently creased, including many from Hurricane Agnes.
Chinese authorities have evacuated more than 1.1 million people as a typhoon heads to its southeastern coast.
BEIJING – A typhoon pounded the Chinese coast south of Shanghai on Saturday with strong winds and heavy rainfall, submerging roads, felling trees and forcing the evacuation of 1.1 million people.
Typhoon Chan-hom slammed ashore with winds of up to 160 kilometers (100 miles) per hour near Zhoushan, a city east of the port of Ningbo in Zhejiang province. It has dumped more than 100 millimeters (4 inches) of rain since late Friday — about a month’s average in less than 24 hours, China Central Television and the Xinhua News Agency reported.
No deaths or injuries have been reported by Saturday evening.
“It was so windy that the rain came in through the windows even though they were closed,” Zhoushan resident Zhang Zhouqun, 53, manager of a logistics company, said in a telephone interview.
The storm felled 10-year-old trees in his neighborhood, stranded cars in 60-centimeter (2-foot) -deep water and swamped half the fields, Zhang said. Police were out barring people from trying to drive. At the urging of local officials, Zhang’s family had stocked up a few days’ worth of groceries, he said.
Some 1.1 million people had been evacuated from coastal areas of Zhejiang and more than 46,000 in neighboring Jiangsu province ahead of the storm, Xinhua said. The provincial flood control bureau said 28,764 ships had been ordered back to port.
The national weather service said earlier the typhoon might be the strongest to strike China since the communist government took power in 1949. It initially was deemed a super-typhoon but was downgraded at midday Saturday to a strong typhoon and was weakening further as it moved inland.
Heavy downpour was reported in some areas, including the village of Lai’ao, which recorded more than 400 millimeters (16 inches) of rain, according to Xinhua.
More than 100 trains and 600 flights were canceled in the cities of Hangzhou, Ningbo, Wenzhou and Taizhou, according to Xinhua. Buses and passenger ferries also suspended service.
Earlier, Chan-hom caused 20 injuries as it moved over islands in southern Japan, Kyodo news agency reported.
The storm dumped rain on the northern Philippines and Taiwan, where several flights were suspended. The stock market and public offices were closed Friday in Taipei, Taiwan’s capital.
Chan-hom is the second major storm to hit China this week, after Typhoon Linfa forced 56,000 people from their homes in the southern province of Guangdong province.