Evacuations in California take place as storm approaches - InfoNews

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Evacuations in California take place as storm approaches

FILE - This Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019 photo released by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department shows heavy equipment working to clear U.S. Highway 101 following heavy rains which produced runoff from Romero and San Ysidro Creeks in the Montecito area of Santa Barbara County, Calif. On Tuesday, March 5, 2019 the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office ordered about 3,000 residents to evacuate ahead of a new storm expected to hit areas scarred by wildfires, including parts of Montecito hit by a disastrous debris flow just over a year ago. Residents of risk areas below the Thomas, Whittier and Sherpa fire burn scars were told to leave their homes by 4 p.m. Tuesday. (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP, File)
March 05, 2019 - 9:25 PM

LOS ANGELES - A storm soaking California on Wednesday could trigger mudslides in wildfire burn areas where thousands of residents are under evacuation orders, authorities warned.

Up to 4 inches (10 centimetres) of rain is expected along the Central Coast, and amounts could be higher in areas where thunderstorms develop, the National Weather Service said.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office ordered 3,000 residents to evacuate hillside neighbourhoods scarred by fires — including parts of Montecito hit by a disastrous debris flow just over a year ago. Officials didn't say how many people heeded the order.

Many customers pumping gas at Montecito's Village Service Station on Tuesday said they're not leaving, according to Ray Dunham, who works there.

"Nobody's going into panic mode," he said. "They think the threat is way over-exaggerated."

Sheriff Bill Brown told a news conference earlier this week that the system is expected to be more intense than the last several storms. A map published by the county Office of Emergency Management indicates that much of Montecito is at risk.

"We do not take these evacuation orders lightly, and while we do know this is very inconvenient, if you are in an evacuation area, please know there is a high risk to life and property," Brown said.

A January 2018 debris flow from the Thomas fire scar destroyed or damaged hundreds of Montecito structures, killed 21 people and left two others missing.

The weather service issued a flash-flood watch through Wednesday for all burn areas in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties. However, the storm is expected to weaken slightly as it moves south toward greater Los Angeles, forecasters said.

To the north, heavy snowfall and high winds are predicted for the Sierra Nevada, where a series of blizzards has dumped mountains of snow. Motorists are warned that low visibility could impede travel on mountain passes.

The wettest winter in years has nearly eliminated drought conditions in the state. While frequently disrupting travel, the storms contributed a big part of the state's water supply — the Sierra snowpack that melts and runs off into reservoirs during spring and summer.

The California Department of Water Resources reported last month that the Sierra snowpack was 153 per cent of average to date.

News from © The Associated Press, 2019
The Associated Press

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