Evacuations Ordered as Steady Rain Threatens Southern California Hillsides

After a day of steady showers, more rains is in the Tuesday forecast for a widespread part of Southern California

NBC 7, Family photo

What to Know

  • A winter storm warning will be in effect in the San Gabriel Mountains from noon Monday until 10 a.m. Tuesday
  • Evacuations were ordered early Tuesday for some Malibu residents below wildfire burn areas
  • More rain is the forecast before what looks like a dry weekend

A second day of heavy rain was expected Tuesday in Southern California, leading to evacuation orders in hillside communities in Malibu, Burbank and other locations, but the storm was milder than expected and evacuation orders in most Southern California locations were lifted by Tuesday night.

Mandatory evacuations were issued for Tuesday morning in the Woolsey Fire burn scar areas in Malibu. Evacuations began at 8 a.m. 

See List of Mandatory Evacuations Here

In Burbank, a mandatory evacuation order was scheduled for noon along Country Club Drive, an hillside vulnerable to flooding and debris flows, with voluntary evacuation orders issued for other areas.

The evacuation orders for Burbank were lifted for Tuesday as of 9 p.m.

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A flash flood watch was in effect for all burn scars Tuesday with .5 to 1 inches of rain in the forecast. Tuesday started out dry, but showers and heavy rain moved in during the afternoon, adding to moisture on already soaked hillsides.

"The chances for rain go up into the afternoon," said NBC4 forecaster Shanna Mendiola. "It's going to add to everything that was falling yesterday."

Wildfire burn areas are more susceptible to flooding because water bounces off the soil, which would normally absorb moisture if the hillside was covered in brush and other vegetation. Hillsides with a high degree of slope are especially dangerous because the rate of water and debris flowing down toward homes and roads increases.

The Woolsey Fire area in Ventura County and in the Malibu area in LA County are the most vulnerable of the region's burn areas, with mandatory evacuations announced for Tuesday morning. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department emphasized the risks in a statement.

"Authorities warn that all residents who live in or near the Woolsey Fire burn area should remain aware of their surroundings and weather conditions during these storms. Even small amounts of rainfall rates may result in significant mud and debris flow, so we strongly encourage residents who live in or near Woolsey Fire burn areas to be ready to evacuate at a moment's notice," said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Capt. Darren Harris. "If you feel unsafe or think that hazardous conditions near your home may develop, do not hesitate to leave. Elderly residents, individuals who have medical conditions and residents who own large animals should make plans now to leave their homes as a precaution."

LA County public safety officials said communities in low-lying areas or next to steep slopes or waterways are particularly at-risk of falling debris and mud flow. Residents living in homes with limited roadway access or that can become isolated for an extended period due to the storm should consider leaving before storms arrive, and homes or neighborhoods with gates should consider leaving them open to avoid being trapped due to mud flow accumulation; even one-inch of mud can restrict gate operations.

"If your property becomes unsafe and there is no time to evacuate, seek safe high-ground," urged the sheriff department statement.

In Santa Barbara County on the central coast, evacuation orders were in effect for areas hit by the Sherpa, Whittier and Thomas fires Tuesday morning but were lifted Tuesday evening.

"Gather family members, pets, and essential items," a county statement warned Tuesday morning.

The warning came a year, nearly to the day, after debris flow from a storm killed 23 people in the seaside community of Montecito.

In Ventura County, several neighborhoods were under mandatory evacuation, including communities near the Thomas and Woolsey fire burn zones Tuesday. However, the majority of the mandatory evacuations were lifted by Tuesday evening.

Two more storms are expected to roll through the area this week, generating between 3 and 6 inches of rain in coastal valleys and 7 to 9 inches in mountains and foothills.

Mountain Snow Totals Climb

Heavy snow is expected, with snow accumulation of 6-12 inches anticipated above 5,000 feet and 1-3 inches between 4,000 and 5,000 feet, forecasters said. There also could be light slow accumulation down to 3,500 feet, which could affect Interstate 5 through The Grapevine.

At the same time, "damaging" winds of 25-35 mph gusting at up to 60 mph will buffet the northwest San Gabriels, including the Interstate 5 corridor.

Officials suggested to plan on difficult travel conditions during the morning commute and to be  prepared for significant reductions and invisibility at times.

A Winter Storm Warning for snow means severe winter weather conditions will make travel very hazardous or impossible.

The latest road conditions from CalTrans are available by calling (800) 427-7623.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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