Powerful storm batters California, prompting evacuations

Published 02-02-2019

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LOS ANGELES (AP) - The second in a string of powerful storms battered California on Saturday, bringing down trees, flooding roadways and prompting evacuations in wildfire burn areas where intense downpours could loosen bare hillsides and cause mudslides.

The system could bring 4 inches (10 centimeters) of rain in some areas, 10-foot waves in the Pacific and several feet of snow in the Sierra Nevada and other mountain ranges.

A wind gust in Santa Barbara County topped 80 mph (128 kph) as the storm moved south. Wind and flash flood warnings were issued for the southern part of the state after being lifted in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Multiple accidents were reported on slick highways, including a crash on Interstate 5 that killed a volunteer member of a sheriff's search and rescue team and injured several others.

The team from Ventura County was on its way to a training exercise when members stopped to help at the scene of a single-vehicle rollover crash.

A minivan carrying a family was traveling too fast for the wet conditions, lost control and plowed into members of the team, Los Angeles County fire Capt. Tony Imbrenda told KABC-TV. Nine people were transported to hospitals, including a member of the rescue team who was in critical condition.

"This is a very unfortunate situation that could've been avoided," Imbrenda said, warning motorists to slow down in the rain.

Evacuations were ordered or recommended for many areas that were hit by wildfires in recent months. More than a half-inch (1.27 centimeters) of rain was recorded in five minutes in areas of Santa Barbara County where residents near the Thomas, Whittier and Sherpa fire scars were ordered to leave.

"This is a dangerous situation," the National Weather Service said, warning that high rates of rain could send debris, mud and boulders sluicing down denuded hillsides.

It has only been a little over a year since a downpour on the huge Thomas Fire burn scar unleashed a massive debris flow that destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes in the seaside community of Montecito. The disaster killed 21 people,

"This is a very unfortunate situation that could've been avoided," Imbrenda said, warning motorists to slow down in the rain.

Evacuations were ordered or recommended for many areas that were hit by wildfires in recent months. More than a half-inch (1.27 centimeters) of rain was recorded in five minutes in areas of Santa Barbara County where residents near the Thomas, Whittier and Sherpa fire scars were ordered to leave.

"This is a dangerous situation," the National Weather Service said, warning that high rates of rain could send debris, mud and boulders sluicing down denuded hillsides.

It has only been a little over a year since a downpour on the huge Thomas Fire burn scar unleashed a massive debris flow that destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes in the seaside community of Montecito. The disaster killed 21 people, and two others have never been found.

In Malibu, where the Woolsey fire last year destroyed many homes, residents barricaded their properties with sandbags.

In the Holy Jim fire area southeast of Los Angeles, where an August blaze scoured tens of thousands of acres in the Cleveland National Forest, volunteers using heavy equipment removed debris and deepened a creek bed to help prevent flooding.

"In the last two days we've been able to move 19 dump trucks worth of debris from the creek bed and reinforce some of the walls here," Keith Kothlow of Team Rubicon, a veteran-led disaster response organization, told KABC-TV.

The National Park Service warned visitors to Yosemite of possible road closures and strongly advised drivers to bring tire chains in the event of snow or icy conditions.

Winter storm warnings were in place for the Sierra Nevada along

"This is a dangerous situation," the National Weather Service said, warning that high rates of rain could send debris, mud and boulders sluicing down denuded hillsides.

It has only been a little over a year since a downpour on the huge Thomas Fire burn scar unleashed a massive debris flow that destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes in the seaside community of Montecito. The disaster killed 21 people, and two others have never been found.

In Malibu, where the Woolsey fire last year destroyed many homes, residents barricaded their properties with sandbags.

In the Holy Jim fire area southeast of Los Angeles, where an August blaze scoured tens of thousands of acres in the Cleveland National Forest, volunteers using heavy equipment removed debris and deepened a creek bed to help prevent flooding.

"In the last two days we've been able to move 19 dump trucks worth of debris from the creek bed and reinforce some of the walls here," Keith Kothlow of Team Rubicon, a veteran-led disaster response organization, told KABC-TV.

The National Park Service warned visitors to Yosemite of possible road closures and strongly advised drivers to bring tire chains in the event of snow or icy conditions.

Winter storm warnings were in place for the Sierra Nevada along with avalanche warnings on the Nevada side of the range. The Sierra is already loaded with snow from a series of storms in January. The weather service said areas could see accumulations of up to 10 feet (3 meters) over the next few days as a series of storms blew through.

Numerous areas of the state were under warnings for high winds.

The weather service lifted flash-flood watches for areas burned by the Mendocino Complex, Camp and Carr wildfires in Northern California.

Two cold weather systems will follow on Sunday and Monday, bringing additional widespread showers and snow, forecasters said.

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