Thousands in California flee homes ahead of possible mudslides

(Reuters) - Thousands of Southern Californians fled their homes on Monday as a powerful rain storm that could cause flash floods and trigger mudslides soaked steep slopes where a series of intense wildfires burned off vegetation last month.

Heavy downpours that could produce more than 1 inch (2.5 cm) of rain per hour were expected through Tuesday evening, forcing officials to order or advise Ventura, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles county residents who live near where wildfires burned to evacuated their homes.

"Recent burn areas will be especially vulnerable where dangerous mud and debris flows are possible," the National Weather Service said in a statement.

Several December wildfires, included a blaze known as the Thomas Fire which was the largest in the state's history, burned away vegetation that holds the soil in place and baked a waxy layer into the earth that prevents water from sinking deeply into the ground.

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The most devastating images from California's wildfires
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The most devastating images from California's wildfires
Thomas wildfire burns above Bella Vista Drive near Romero Canyon in this social media photo by Santa Barbara County Fire Department in Montecito, California, U.S. December 12, 2017. Courtesy Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Fire fighters attack the Thomas Fire?s north flank with backfires as they continue to fight a massive wildfire north of Los Angeles, near Ojai , California, U.S., December 9, 2017. REUTERS/Gene Blevins TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A firefighter is working on extinguishing the Lilac Fire, a fast moving wildfire, in Bonsall, California, U.S., December 7, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Firefighters work at the top of a hill as the Lilac Fire burns through Bonsall, California, U.S., December 7, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Firefighters battle to save one of many homes burning in an early-morning Creek Fire that broke out in the Kagel Canyon area in the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles, in Sylmar, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Gene Blevins TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Fire engulfs horse stables after an early-morning Creek Fire that broke out in the Kagel Canyon area in the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles, in Sylmar, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Gene Blevins
A firefighting helicopter makes a water drop on the Lilac Fire, a fast moving wildfire in Bonsall, California, U.S., December 7, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A horse which was left behind after an early-morning Creek Fire that broke out in the Kagel Canyon area in the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles, is seen in Sylmar, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Gene Blevins
Burned up trees glow red in the dark after an early-morning Creek Fire that broke out in the Kagel Canyon area in the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles, in Sylmar, California, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Gene Blevins
Firefighters battle flames from a Santa Ana wind-driven brush fire called the Thomas Fire in Santa Paula, California, December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Gene Blevins
Area residents walk through a neighborhood destroyed by wildfire in Santa Rosa, California, U.S., October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
An aerial shows damage caused by wildfires in Santa Rosa, California, U.S October 11, 2017. Picture taken October 11, 2017. REUTERS/DroneBase
A wildfire is shown from the air near Atlas Road during an operation to rescue people trapped by wildfire in Napa, California, U.S., October 9, 2017. Photo taken October 9, 2017. Courtesy California Highway Patrol/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
The Canyon Fire burns hillsides in Corona, California, September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Kyle Grillot
The Canyon Fire burns hillsides above houses in Corona, California, September 25, 2017. REUTERS/ Kyle Grillot
Firefighters watch a helicopter make a water drop on a wildfire burning behind the Getty Center in Mandeville Canyon in Los Angeles, California, U.S., May 28, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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About 30,000 residents were under evacuation orders or advisories on Monday, ABC news reported.

"I’m just tired. I can’t seem to get my life kick-started," Teri Lebow, whose Montecito, California was damaged by the wildfires, told the Los Angeles Times.

The storm system was expected to produce 4 inches to 7 inches (10 to 18 cm) in the foothills and mountains with 9 inches (23 cm) in isolated areas. Three inches (7 cm) to two feet (61 cm) of snow was also forecast for higher elevations, the National Weather Service said.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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