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SANTA CRUZ: Weary Californians on Sunday (Jan 15) were waiting out their ninth successive storm in a three-week period that has brought destructive flooding and at least 19 deaths, but forecasters said drier times are finally coming.

US President Joe Biden late on Saturday declared a major disaster in California, allowing the federal government to expedite aid – including help with temporary housing and repairs – to those hit by flooding and landslides.

Saturday had brought yet more rain to a state more used to drought than to deluges, flooding farmfields and some urban areas.

“Showers are forecast to continue along the West Coast Sunday,” the National Weather Service (NWS) said early in the day, “but totals should be lower”, with a drier period ahead both in California and neighbouring parts of the US Southwest.

Some flooding remains possible, the NWS said, “especially given the very wet antecedent conditions”.

Heavy snow in mountainous areas from California to Colorado continued to make travel hazardous at higher elevations.

And nearly 20,000 homes remain without power in California, according to


Still, some Californians were quick to take advantage of at least a temporary break in the weather.

On a beach in Santa Cruz still covered with flood debris from the San Lorenzo River, 29-year-old Evan Short and three friends found room for a volleyball game.

“I saw a little break in the weather and convinced a couple other desperate friends to join us,” Short, a data analyst, told AFP.

But much of the state was still struggling to cope with weeks of flooding and sometimes with personal disasters.

“I’m so angry, it just makes me want to cry,” said Camilla Shaffer, a Briton in the northern town of Felton whose house flooded on Saturday for the third time in two weeks.

Amberlee Galvin, a chef at a local restaurant, said her front room was inundated.

“Within 10 minutes it had flooded completely to the ceiling. It happened crazy fast,” the 23-year-old said. “We had to get canoed out by a neighbour.”

And amid rising waters, rescuers in San Luis Obispo County had to temporarily call off a search for five-year-old Kyle Doan, who was swept away in floodwaters as his mother tried to pull him to safety from their car, the county sheriff’s office said Saturday.

In Spreckels, a community a few hundred yards from the Salinas River in central California, most residents opted not to evacuate despite warnings from authorities.

“It looks like we might have missed kind of the worst of it,” said Robert Zagajeski, out walking his dog.

But Governor Gavin Newsom urged Californians to remain vigilant and exercise “common sense over the course of the next 24 to 48 hours”.

Between the repeated storms of recent weeks, workers have rushed to clear some of the mess, shoveling mud from roads and using heavy machinery to remove fallen trees or clear rockslides.

Winter storms are not unusual in California. But global warming is making them wetter and more powerful.

The past three months in San Francisco have been the rainiest – with 20 inches of rain in the period – since the winter of 1972-73.

Despite that, the farmfields of California, a breadbasket to the country, have yet to fully recover from years of drought.