More rain heads for drenched Calif.

Thousands are evacuated amid flooding fears

A restaurant bike delivery man crossed through a flooded corner on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles yesterday. A restaurant bike delivery man crossed through a flooded corner on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles yesterday. (Danny Moloshok/ Associated Press)
By Raquel Maria Dillon
Associated Press / December 21, 2010

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Your article has been sent.

Text size +

LOS ANGELES — A powerful storm system with drenching rain, heavy snow, and high winds lashed California yesterday, but forecasters warned the worst was yet to come.

Even stronger storms were bearing down on the state and threatened to dump another 5 to 10 inches of rain during the next two days.

Virtually the entire state was affected by the bad weather.

Some locations in Southern California had received more than 12 inches of rain, said meteorologist Jamie Meier of the National Weather Service. It was the most rainfall from one storm event since 2005, he said.

“That will make for a pretty good wallop, especially considering how dry things have been for the last two years,’’ Meier said.

Downtown Los Angeles has received 5 inches of rain since Friday morning, more than one-third of the average annual precipitation.

Thousands of residents of the San Joaquin Valley farming community of McFarland were evacuated for hours yesterday amid fears of major flooding,

At one point, an estimated 400 to 500 homes were in danger as the result of the stormy weather that has gripped California since late last week, triggering mostly minor flooding, mudslides, road closures, and power outages.

McFarland resident Cristian Abundis, who lives on a street where water ran a foot deep, returned from an evacuation center and quickly started filling sandbags.

“We just want to be prepared,’’ he said, dropping the bags around his doors and driveway.

Gary Farrell, general manager of the McFarland Parks and Recreation District, said the flooding was caused when Poso Creek became clogged with debris and overflowed. Santa Fe Railroad crews cleared the debris.

Elsewhere, a small twin-engine airplane was reported overdue on a 65-mile flight from Palm Springs to Chino, and the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department intended to conduct a search while the Federal Aviation Administration checked with other airports to see if the pilot had diverted, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said.

Gregor said late yesterday that wreckage of a small plane had been found, but he could not confirm if it was the missing aircraft. He referred inquiries to the sheriff’s department, which did not return calls seeking further information.

The California Highway Patrol reported two rain-related traffic deaths Sunday. A 3-year-old boy was ejected from an SUV that went out of control in heavy rain in the Fresno area, and a 22-year-old man was thrown from a vehicle that hydroplaned and crashed in the Bakersfield area.

Flash-flood watches and warnings were in effect yesterday for some places, particularly mountain areas still scarred by wildfires.

Residents of La Canada Flintridge were among those keeping a wary eye on the rain after a 250-square-mile wildfire last year denuded towering slopes above communities along the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains.

More than 40 homes in the hillside city just north of Los Angeles were damaged or destroyed by a mudslide in February.

“We’ve just had some sprinkling rains today. Occasionally it gets a littler harder but nothing to worry about,’’ said Del Tucker, a retired geologist who has lived in the area since homes were built there in 1962.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. crews were working to restore power to the last of about 282,000 customers without electricity since the storm arrived. Southern California Edison had 13,000 customers still without power.

Repair crews braced for predicted winds of up to 45 miles per hour, along with heavy rain and snow in elevated areas.

Elsewhere, a 20-mile stretch of scenic Pacific Coast Highway between Malibu and Oxnard was closed to commuters after a rock and mudslide Sunday night. The California Highway Patrol said no one was hurt. The highway also was closed for a time in Orange County by a mudslide at Dana Point.

Areas of San Bernardino County that burned recently were under close watch. “We’re doing preparation because the height of the rain for our county is going to be Tuesday and Wednesday,’’ fire spokeswoman Tracey Martinez said.