California storm causing mudslides, evacuations in south after drenching north

A soaking storm swept into Southern California, causing several mudslides, flooding streets and cutting power to tens of thousands Friday after lashing the rest of the state with much-needed rain.

No major disasters reported in L.A. and surrounding sprawl of cities

A man who parked his car overnight in western California finds it nearly completely submerged on Thursday morning. A powerful storm system pushed into Southern California on Friday, causing mudslides and evacuations. (Kent Porter/The Press Democrat/Associated Press)

A soaking storm swept into Southern California, causing several mudslides, flooding streets and cutting power to tens of thousands Friday after lashing the rest of the state with much-needed rain.

Despite the storm's intense arrival, no major disasters were reported in Los Angeles and the surrounding sprawl of cities. Experts say California needs many more such storms to pull out of a drought that has lasted three years.

Of particular concern were hillsides, stripped bare by wildfires, that loom over some neighbourhoods. Though the fast-moving storm was projected to clear out east and reach Nevada and Arizona later in the day, the risk remained that sodden topsoil no longer held in place by roots could give way.

In one area, a debris flow brushed aside barriers set up on the slope and surrounded about a dozen homes with silt, sticks, roots and rocks as large as a couch, piling up to the roofline in several backyards.

One of the homes is owned by former Congressman Elton Gallegly.

"There's a lot of memories there" he told KTTV-TV, gesturing to the now-inaccessible house.

A homeowners association in Camarillo, about 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles, hired a construction crew to move debris — but the muck buried one of the earth movers. 
Beatrice Clark makes her way through floodwaters in Healdsburg, Calif. (Christopher Chung/The Press Democrat/Associated Press)

Mandatory evacuations were ordered for 124 homes, while some people needed help leaving because of property damage, Ventura County sheriff's Capt. Don Aguilar said. Forty people displaced by the mudslide came to an evacuation centre, and two were taken to the hospital though their medical issues were not serious, Red Cross spokesman Tom Horan said.

Avalanches of mud and debris also blocked part of the Pacific Coast Highway in Ventura County, weather service specialist Stuart Seto said. Street and freeway flooding snarled morning rush-hour traffic and triggered numerous accidents.

A powerful squall line led the storm's pre-dawn charge. Wind-driven rain fell at the rate of 2 to 5 centimetres an hour, triggering some flash flooding, the National Weather Service said. The main front followed with rain falling at rates of one-fifth to about four-fifths of a centimetre per hour.

Widely scattered power outages left about 50,000 customers of Southern California Edison and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power without electricity, spokesmen for the utilities said.

The storm system was blamed for two deaths in Oregon, thousands of power outages in Washington and flooded roadways in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Debris flow of rocks east of L.A.

While the sun rose Friday to dry skies over San Francisco, the storm's affects lingered in Northern California.

In Sonoma County, the Russian River was approaching flood stage Friday morning and was expected to crest several feet above it by early afternoon. Officials advised residents of about 300 homes to evacuate low-lying areas. 
A home sits off of its foundation in Washaway Beach, Washington on Thursday. The Pacific storm that lashed northern and central California continued southwards into the state on Friday. (David Ryder/Reuters)

Authorities warned of minor flooding along the Sacramento River in Tehama County and Cache Creek in Yolo County.

As the storm crept south down the coast overnight, its powerful winds caused power outages around Santa Barbara. Amtrak suspended service between Los Angeles and the central coast city of San Luis Obispo.

Meanwhile, east of Los Angeles in the suburb of Glendora, the site of the devastating Colby Fire in January, a debris flow was sending rocks the size of golf balls and bricks down streets, police Lt. Matt Williams said. Five people were using an evacuation centre but the exact number of people who fled their homes isn't yet known, he said. No injuries or damage to homes were immediately reported.

Possible slides in the neighbouring city of Azusa on the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains led to some evacuations.

In Orange County, sheriff's deputies went door to door before dawn to tell residents of fire-scarred Silverado Canyon to evacuate because of rainfall predictions.

Ski resorts in the northern Sierra Nevada were hoping for 3 feet of snow once it all settles.