LOS ANGELES – Although the first wave of a worrisome Pacific storm still major problems in California, forecasters say that the worst is yet to come, leaving the authorities and the disaster-weary residents on edge.
Record rain fell Wednesday in parts of Southern California, where thousands of people are evacuated because of the threat of debris flows and mudslides from a wildfire-burn areas.
Although there are no large debris flows as feared, forecasters warned that a disaster is still very well possible, if the rain increases on Thursday.
“We are very concerned,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Joe Sirard. “We hope that this is not a cry wolf scenario, where people pooh-pooh what we say.”
The storm came ashore on the central coast and spreading to the south in the Los Angeles region and the north by the Bay of San Francisco, fed by a long plume of subtropical moisture called an atmospheric river.
It is also moved to the east, bringing the threat of flooding for the San Joaquin Valley and the Sierra Nevada, where winter storm warnings for new snow were in effect on the second day of spring.
Record rainfall was recorded in five locations, including Santa Barbara, Palmdale and Oxnard, where nearly 1.8 inches (4.5 centimeters) of rain had fallen by Wednesday evening. That is compared to the record of 1.3 inches (7.6 cm), set in 1937.
Nearly 5 inches (13 cm) of rain had fallen in the northern San Luis Obispo County, while 2.7 inches (7 cm) fell in Santa Clarita, just north of Los Angeles and 2.6 inches (6.6 centimeters) was recorded at a place in Santa Barbara County.
The authorities were closely in Santa Barbara County, in the hope there would not be a repetition of the massive January dirt flows of a burn scar that ravaged the community of Montecito and 21 people killed.
Mud and rockslides closed some roads in the region, including Highway 1 at Ragged Point near Big Sur, not far from the beautiful coast route is still blocked by a massive landslide caused by a storm last year.
A large pine tree was felled in Los Angeles, landing in a residential street in a wooden fence. No one was injured.
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 supermarket car park to avoid the hotel costs and the hustle and bustle of an evacuation shelter.
Meanwhile her husband Alan is to stay at home, just as he did the other three times Potter has evacuated because of fire or storm since September.
“It’s OK because we didn’t fight,” Potter said. “I get to leave and he stays. As if to say: ‘See you later.’ We are both happy.
“I feel better, not under the cliff in my sleep,” Potter said. “If he feels OK, that is his problem. If something happens maybe I’ll zip down and digs him out.”
The storm will last until Thursday, there was concern about the combination of rainfall rates and long duration, said Suzanne Grimmesey, a spokeswoman for Santa Barbara County.
The grim Montecito experience in the recent history, the Santa Barbara County ordered evacuation of areas along the south coast in the near areas burned by multiple fires dating back to 2016.
“We actually have a good feeling about the evacuation order,” Grimmesey said. “Law enforcement was in the extreme risk areas of Montecito yesterday knocking on doors. For those who were at home, we had a very good cooperation rate with people leaving.”
Many residents in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties have faced repeated evacuations or advisories since December, when a wind-driven fire grew to be the largest in recorded history and destroyed more than 1,000 buildings.
In Los Angeles County, authorities canceled some planned mandatory evacuations due to an expected decrease in precipitation, but kept the others in the place, because debris flows in a canyon area stripped bare by a wildfire.