Forecasters:Worst to Come in CA Storms 03/22 06:23
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Although the first wave of a worrisome Pacific storm
hasn't caused any major problems in California, forecasters say the worst is
still to come, leaving authorities and disaster-weary residents on edge.
Record rain fell Wednesday in parts of Southern California where thousands
of people have been evacuated because of the threat of debris flows and
mudslides from wildfire burn areas.
Although there were no major debris flows as feared, forecasters warned that
disaster is still very possible as the rain picks up on Thursday.
"We're very concerned," said National Weather Service meteorologist Joe
Sirard. "We're hoping this isn't a cry-wolf scenario where people will
pooh-pooh what we're saying."
The storm came ashore on the central coast and spread south into the Los
Angeles region and north through San Francisco Bay, fed by a long plume of
subtropical moisture called an atmospheric river.
It also moved eastward, bringing the threat of flooding to the San Joaquin
Valley and Sierra Nevada, where winter storm warnings for new snow were in
effect on the second day of spring.
Record rainfall was recorded in five spots including Santa Barbara, Palmdale
and Oxnard, where nearly 1.8 inches (4.5 centimeters) of rain had fallen by
Wednesday evening. That's compared to the record of 1.3 inches (7.6
centimeters) set in 1937.
Nearly 5 inches (13 centimeters) of rain had fallen in northern San Luis
Obispo County, while 2.7 inches (7 centimeters) fell in Santa Clarita, just
north of Los Angeles and 2.6 inches (6.6 centimeters) was recorded at one spot
in Santa Barbara County.
Authorities kept a close watch on Santa Barbara County, hoping there would
not be a repeat of the massive January debris flows from a burn scar that
ravaged the community of Montecito and killed 21 people.
Mud and rockslides closed several roads in the region, including Highway 1
at Ragged Point near Big Sur, not far from where the scenic coast route is
still blocked by a massive landslide triggered by a storm last year.
A large pine tree was felled in Los Angeles, landing across a residential
street into a picket fence. No one was hurt.
Carolyn Potter, 59, evacuated from her home in Casitas Springs in Ventura
County on Wednesday --- the fourth time since September --- and plans to sleep
in her car in a grocery store parking lot to avoid hotel costs and the bustle
of an evacuation shelter.
Meanwhile her husband Alan is staying home, just like he has the other three
times Potter has evacuated because of fires or storms since September.
"It's OK because we're not fighting," Potter said. "I get to leave and he
stays. It's like, 'See you later.' We're both happy.
"I feel better not being under the cliff in my sleep," Potter said. "If he
feels OK that's his problem. If something happens maybe I'll zip on down and
dig him out."
With the storm expected to last through Thursday, there was concern about
the combination of rainfall rates and the long duration, said Suzanne
Grimmesey, a spokeswoman for Santa Barbara County.
With the grim Montecito experience in recent memory, Santa Barbara County
ordered evacuation of areas along its south coast near areas burned by several
wildfires dating back to 2016.
"We actually do feel good about the evacuation order," Grimmesey said. "Law
enforcement was out in the extreme risk areas of Montecito yesterday knocking
on doors. For those that were home, we had a very good cooperation rate with
Many residents in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties have faced repeated
evacuations or advisories since December, when a wind-driven fire grew into the
largest in recorded state history and destroyed more than 1,000 buildings.
In Los Angeles County, authorities canceled some planned mandatory
evacuations because of a projected decrease in rainfall but kept others in
place because of debris flows in one canyon area stripped bare by wildfire.