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California soaked but little drought help, damage

Rain Storms Threaten Parched Southern California With Mudslides
AZUSA, Calif. (AP) -- A storm that brought some of the highest rainfall totals to the Los Angeles area in years, including eight inches on some mountains, was just the beginning of what the region needs to pull out of a major drought.

Although the storm was expected to remain strong Saturday, forecasters said such systems would have to become common for the state to make serious inroads against the drought.

"We need several large storms and we just don't see that on the horizon," National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Boldt said Friday. "This is a rogue storm. We will dry out next week."

But the storm had yet to do serious damage either. At least not yet.

In Azusa and neighboring foothill communities about 25 miles east of Los Angeles that sit beneath nearly 2,000 acres of steep mountain slopes that just weeks ago were menaced by a wildfire, about 1,200 homes were under evacuation orders over mudflow fears but were so-far spared.

In particular danger were about a dozen homes in Azusa that were backed up against a steep fire-denuded hillside several hundred feet high that authorities feared could collapse.

Muddy water swept down the hillside earlier in the day, spreading about two feet of ooze above one backyard, although fencing walls and an orchard of about 5,000 avocado trees behind the development stopped most serious debris.

Despite the urging of police and fire officials who cleared reporters and others out of the neighborhood as the hill grew more saturated, at least a few residents decided to stay on.

Dennis Sanderson, 50, said his reaction to the evacuation order was "we'll ride it out," but by nightfall he was undecided and keeping an eye on the weather because of forecasts for more rainfall.

Only a half-inch of rain was expected late Friday night "but that doesn't mean that mountain won't come down, so we'll probably go ahead and leave," Sanderson said.

Ed Heinlein, 65, evacuated early Friday with five other family members including his 5-week-old grandson to stay with friends, but kept returning to eye the house and the mountain, where mud filled furrows more than three feet deep and brimmed over retaining walls three feet tall.

"It's your home and your life, so it's hard to stay away" Heinlein said. However, "We're not to go back until the threat clears."

About 13 homes were evacuated Friday night in Palmdale in northern Los Angeles County, where a mudslide closed a major road.

Thunder echoed and hard rain fell late Friday night on Hollywood, which was abuzz with preparations for Sunday evening's Academy Awards and hopes the rain will have moved on by then as expected.

Rainfall totals in parts of California were impressive, especially in areas that typically don't receive much, but not nearly enough to offer long-term relief from a long-running drought.

Three inches fell on Bel Air and Pasadena, and an urban flash-flood warning that was sent to cell phones was called late Friday night for central Los Angeles County.

For the first time in nearly three years, downtown Los Angeles received more than 2 inches - doubling its total for the rainy season that began in July, the National Weather Service said. Yet the city remained 7 inches below the normal 11 inches.

Meanwhile to the east in San Bernardino County, a levee failed and put eight houses in danger of serious flooding, but county fire crews were working to protect them and no evacuations were ordered.

Forecasters expected the storm to last through Saturday in California before trundling east into similarly rain-starved neighboring states. Phoenix was expecting its first noticeable precipitation in two months. The storm was projected to head east across the Rockies before petering out in the Northeast in several days.

Rain also fell along the central coast, the San Francisco Bay area and Central Valley.

Winter storm warnings were in effect in the Sierra Nevada. About 15 inches of new snow had fallen by mid-day Friday at the University of California, Berkeley's Central Sierra Snow Lab located at 6,900 feet elevation.

A tornado warning was issued for Sacramento, Yolo and Sutter Counties Friday night but was canceled soon after.

Farmer Ray Gene Veldhuis, who grows almonds, walnuts and pistachios and runs a 2,300-cow dairy in the Central Valley's Merced County, welcomed the wet weather but knew it would not rescue California from drought.

"Hopefully, they keep coming," Veldhuis said of the storms. "If not, we'll deal with the hand we're dealt."

Numerous traffic accidents occurred on slick or flooded roads across California, including one about 60 miles east of Los Angeles involving a big rig whose driver died after falling from a freeway overpass.

Power outages hit about 32,000 customers, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and Southern California Edison said.

The storm was good news for other Californians who didn't have to worry about mudslides.

Kite-surfer Chris Strong braved pelting rain to take advantage of strong winds that gave him about an hour of fun over the pounding surf in Huntington Beach.

"I don't get to kite here in these conditions very often - only a handful of times - but you put them in the memory bank," he said.

Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Sue Manning, Alicia Chang and John Antczak in Los Angeles, Martha Mendoza in Santa Cruz, Sudhin Thanawala in San Francisco, Fenit Nirappil and Don Thompson in Sacramento, Scott Smith in Fresno, Gillian Flaccus in Huntington Beach and Julie Watson in San Diego. Pritchard reported from Los Angeles.


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TruthBeKnown March 01 2014 at 7:43 AM

wish we could somehow save all that snow
and send its melting to places that need
the water so bad.
I wonder if man will ever sceintifically
conquer some aspects of the weather.

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2 replies
jtennision TruthBeKnown March 01 2014 at 9:22 AM

California does save the snow run off. Its called lakes and reservoirs.

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mclkarim TruthBeKnown March 01 2014 at 9:27 AM

We do get a lot of our water from the mountains. Also, and most people don't even know this, but for years now CA has spent a ton of money recycling household water by running it through purification plants and putting it back in the water supply. Unfortunately, farmland water cannot be recycled so those crops can be hit really hard when we don't have enough rainfall.

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1 reply
gramargo mclkarim March 01 2014 at 5:31 PM

The farmers, especially in the San Joaquin Valley, are being hit hard because they're not getting any water from the reservoirs farther north, and their local wells are drying up. Many have let fields go fallow and are even pulling out fruit trees because it's too costly to try to save them. Some may well go bankrupt and lose farms that have been in the families for generations......very sad situation. And as well, fruits and veggies will cost us all more since they're not being planted or can't be watered enough to keep them alive.

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powermetal38 March 01 2014 at 11:36 AM

We moved hear from New York, what a blessing...other than the complete lack of rain. But you can really see how beautiful this place is after a rain !

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chckpope March 01 2014 at 8:57 AM

Be careful what you ask for, you may just get it... in buckets. Just last week some friends from CA where worried because they hadn't had rain.

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jennypenny06 March 01 2014 at 10:54 AM

Too bad it's not enough to get them out of the drought, but it's better than nothing!

I don't know why so many people are making comments trashing California and the people who live there. Show me ONE state that does not have its problems!

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1 reply
powermetal38 jennypenny06 March 01 2014 at 11:40 AM

Jealousy is why ! I have lived all over this country and noticed they either hate New York or are jealous of California !

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Kate March 01 2014 at 10:51 AM

No, we all know it isn't enough. I'm in Berkeley and we were supposed to get five days straight, and it didn't happen. Not that five days would be more than the proverbial drop in the bucket anyway, but we sure had high hopes. We're on water rationing, of course, but as a neighbor of mine cynically jokes: I don't know how else to cut back on usage, unless the wife and I start taking showers in Nevada.

We're all terribly worried about the farmers, and the people whose drinking water is literally running out.

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TB March 01 2014 at 9:15 AM

Not much made it to the middle Coachella Valley to the east.....checked the gauge at 4am, and we've got less than 2/10".....

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1 reply
kcarthey TB March 01 2014 at 10:33 AM

Not much rain ever makes it to the Coachella Valley. That is one of the FEW parts of the state that truly is desert.

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foxyjay March 01 2014 at 10:48 AM

Northern Ca .sure can use the rain.

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jem2ooo March 01 2014 at 9:26 AM

What "small fish" are you referring to?

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penrosecottage March 01 2014 at 10:31 AM

I hope this rain does some good for California, the state might have lots of people and cars, but I still thing its a great state, I moved out back in the late 70s for a new job but still think its a great place to live. Every state has its problem, so look at your own state before you start commenting on California.

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1 reply
Judith penrosecottage March 01 2014 at 11:02 AM

My only problem with California is what seems to be a lack of historical preservation in Hollywood and environs. My brother moved there about 30 years ago and has lived in San Francisco, Englewood, Los Angeles, and now Altadena. - and his only complaint is the cost of housing! But he wouldn't move back to the Chicago area for anything.

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kcarthey March 01 2014 at 10:30 AM

The observations and, of all things, advice from those who've never been near California let alone lived there is hilarious. It almost makes up for HP and AOL not having a Comics Page.

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