California mudslide fears ease as storm passes
A powerful storm that brought strong winds and rain to Southern California eased up on Wednesday without causing the heavy mudslides residents had feared.
A flash flood warning was allowed to expire in a part of Santa Barbara County scorched by a recent wildfire, though the National Weather Service cautioned residents that later rains could prompt floods. Los Angeles County also lifted its flash flood warning.
The main concern was that heavy rains would fall on ground burnt by summer fires and lacking the vegetation to anchor it in place.
A few smaller communities near areas burnt by summer wildfires in the Santa Cruz region had been advised to evacuate in advance of the storm.
While the region appeared to escape the worst anticipated effects of the storm, heavy rains made the morning commute in California a mess.
Messy morning commute
The California Highway Patrol said there were 186 traffic crashes in Los Angeles County during the six-hour period ending at 6 a.m. PT on Wednesday. On a dry day during the same period a week earlier, there were 19 crashes, officials said.
Residents in the area of the massive Station fire in Los Angeles County — which blackened 650 square kilometres of the Angeles National Forest — had barricaded their driveways with plywood dams and sandbags in preparation for the mud and debris. But rains tapered off on Wednesday without the expected problems.
"From our standpoint, we're in pretty good shape, unless we have a huge increase in rain," said retired geologist Jim Conel outside his home, which lies near a hillside blackened by summer wildfires.
"Thank the Lord, or whoever: it's OK."
The U.S. Geological Survey has warned that even small storms could unleash massive flows of debris-laden water into communities.
Winds from the storm have already had an effect on the state's power grid. California's electricity grid manager declared a power emergency after winds knocked down a high-voltage transmission line in Monterey County.
With files from The Associated Press