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Tens of thousands evacuate as California storm looms

Andrew Joos-Visconti protects his home from the coming rain with sand bags in the Sun Valley area of Los Angeles Tuesday, March 20, 2018.

(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Authorities ordered tens of thousands of people to flee their homes as a powerful storm was on the way to California, where many municipalities on Tuesday, faced with the threat of flooding and devastating debris flows in areas burned bare by huge forest fires.

An atmospheric river — a huge plume of subtropical moisture aimed at the state of the central and southern coast, where the wealthy community of Montecito near Santa Barbara is still trying to recover from a January storm that unleashed mudslides from a large burn area, swamping the homes and killing 21 people.

WHAT IS AN ATMOSPHERIC RIVER?

Andrew Joos-Visconti works to protect his backyard from the coming rain with a plastic tarp, in the Sun Valley area of Los Angeles Tuesday, March 20, 2018. On the right, his daughter, Scarlett, 4.

(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

The storm was expected to arrive during the night and last through Thursday, 2 to 5 inches of rain to coastal areas and valleys, and 5 to 10 inches in the hills and mountains, the National Weather Service said.

The authorities told as many as 30,000 people from the communities on the south coast of Santa Barbara County, where mudslides from a Jan. 9 flood destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes in Montecito, 21 people were killed and two children missing. Authorities also ordered evacuations in parts of neighboring Ventura County.

Kristine Sperling, her husband, their 11-year-old daughter and the family dog were evacuated from Montecito on Tuesday ahead of the storm; it is the third time that they have cleared out in two weeks, because the weather warnings.

The Sperlings had stayed at the Montecito was evacuated with a head start of January the mud and said that they never ignore evacuation orders.

“It is a matter of life and death,” Kristine Sperling said of Santa Barbara, where her family was staying with friends.

Andrew Joos-Visconti protects his property with sandbags of the coming rain in the Sun Valley area of Los Angeles Tuesday, March 20, 2018.

(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

The Sperlings’ home was not damaged by the mudflow, but they had to be saved after the loss of electricity, gas and water, and all the roads outside the city were destroyed. The mudslide killed a dear friend of the family and some neighbors.

“We are just not willing to take that kind of chance,” Sperling said.

If the Sperlings, many residents of 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 state history. It scorched more than 440 square kilometres, destroyed 1,063 buildings and damaged 280 others.

That blaze and the previous fire dating to mid-2016 set-up of the potential for extreme danger of storms.

Montecito resident Molly Rosecrance said that she now keeps emergency rations and clothing in the trunk of her car.

“I’m tired of moving,” she told the Santa Barbara news station KEYT-TV on Monday. “So if there is something that comes from a result, I can get my house for two weeks. I have groceries in the car to take to a friend’s house and clothes.”

The National Weather Service said, forecasting models of the atmospheric river indicated the first 24 to 36 hours after the storm would target south of Santa Barbara County, western Ventura County and continues along the coast in San Luis Obispo County.

No evacuations were ordered elsewhere, but with burn scars spread across the entire state, authorities urged people to prepare for the storm and made sandbags available. Away from the coast, flash flood watches were in effect Wednesday for areas of the Sierra Nevada and the mountains in the interior of Southern California.

Along with the dangers, the storm had the potential to help boost water supplies in the central coastal region, where droughts have recently gone back to extreme or severe levels.

In the Sierra, where the snowpack is an important portion of the state of the water flow, U. S. Drought Monitor classifications range from abnormally dry to moderate drought. The most recent state of the measurement of the snowpack found its water content is 39 percent of normal at the beginning of this month, before the storm brought blizzard conditions and even avalanche danger.

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