By Christina Maxouris and Haley Brink, CNN
The search for 5-year-old Kyle Doan, who was pulled from his mother’s hands by rushing floodwater on Monday, continued Friday, but with fewer teams, officials said.
Members of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office Dive Team, the Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team, and California Highway Patrol air units are still looking for the boy, but searchers from the National Guard and other outside agencies have been released from the mission.
Searchers on Friday focused on where the San Marcos creek in Central California empties into the Salinas River, according to a news release from authorities.
On Thursday, more than 200 people looked for Kyle. The search teams from several counties went “bank to bank,” dissecting brush piles for any clues that could lead them to the child while dive teams searched below the surface of the water, said San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Nate Paul.
The blonde, hazel-eyed boy was swept away Monday near San Miguel, authorities have said. The search for him, on and off since then, has been hampered by brutal weather conditions battering California and leaving behind piles of mud and debris search teams have had to sift through.
There have been clues authorities are looking in the right direction: Teams have found physical items from the SUV Kyle and his mother were driving in Monday morning, Paul said.
Thursday was a particularly critical day in the search, as the region got a brief respite from the relentless rainfall, which is set to begin again Friday.
“Hope is not lost. We are searching for Kyle, and we will keep this case as an active missing person case until we find him,” he said.
Almost 16 million will be under flood advisories
Friday’s rain is the latest round in a parade of storms hammering the state in recent days, leaving at least 19 people dead. It’s only the beginning in what’s expected to be another difficult weekend.
Almost 16 million people are under flood watches across much of Central California’s coastline and valley starting Saturday through at least Sunday.
“These storms are among the most deadly natural disasters in the modern history of our state,” California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services Director Nancy Ward said at a news conference Friday. “We are coordinating closely with the officials in Monterey County, Santa Cruz, and Merced — regions we expect to continue to be vulnerable to these next two to three storm systems — and to include the possibility of a complete cut off of the Monterey Peninsula.”
As of Friday, 6,000 people are under evacuation orders, officials said.
The statewide average for rainfall for the past 18 days is 9 inches, National Weather Service meteorologist David Lawrence said.
“Some locations … have seen their annual rainfall already occurred in the last 18 days,” Lawrence said.
The focus should be on the Saturday to Saturday night storm, expected to bring widespread heavy rainfall, snow, and wind to various locations, he added.
In Monterey County, just north of San Luis Obispo, Sheriff Tina Nieto on Thursday said the Salinas River was expected to flood through Sunday.
Depending on the amount of additional rain the area receives, authorities are expecting travel disruptions caused by fluctuations of the river as well as a dangerous water flow, the sheriff said. And the floodwaters could cut some areas off from essential services, she added, urging residents to make evacuation plans.
On Friday the river was at 24.5 feet at noon, 1.5 feet above flood stage, according to the National Weather Service. It was forecast to crest at 24.9 feet later Friday.
The rain will be accompanied by atmospheric rivers — long, narrow regions in the atmosphere that can carry moisture thousands of miles.
An atmospheric river is likely to pummel the northern and central California coast Friday, but is unlikely to be as strong as the atmospheric river events that led to deadly flooding, mudslides and prompted the evacuations of thousands of Californians earlier this week.
In Los Angeles, Mayor Karen Bass declared a local emergency due to previous storm damage and hazardous weather forecast for this weekend.
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CNN’s Steve Almasy, Camila Bernal, Gregg Canes and Taylor Romine contributed to this report.