LOS ANGELES – California was lashed Friday by heavy rains that the parched state so desperately needs, though with the soaking came familiar problems: traffic snarls, power outages and the threat of mudslides.
Even with rainfall totals exceeding 8 inches in some Southern California mountains by afternoon, the powerful Pacific storm did not put a major dent in a drought that is among the worst in recent California history.
The first waves of the storm drenched foothill communities east of Los Angeles that just weeks ago were menaced by a wildfire – and now faced potential mudslides. Mandatory evacuation orders were issued for about 1,200 homes in the area. Small debris flows covered one street in Glendora, but no property damage occurred, police said.
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.
The threat of mudslides will last at least through tonight.
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.
Downtown Los Angeles received about 2 inches – doubling its total for the rainy season that began in July, the National Weather Service said. The city remained 7 inches below the normal 11 inches. The last time a storm dumped 2 inches of rain in Los Angeles was March 2011.
“We need several large storms, and we just don’t see that on the horizon. This is a rogue storm,” National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Boldt said. “We will dry out next week.”
But for this rain, the service said, this would have been the driest December through February on record in Los Angeles.
In Glendora, a city about 25 miles east of Los Angeles that sits beneath nearly 2,000 acres of steep mountain slopes stripped by fire in January, a muddy soup of debris began to fill catch basins. With the vegetation gone, little held the dirt and rock in place.
Homes were spared. Skid loaders scraped tons of mud off a road that funneled ooze, large rocks and other debris from a dam-like catch basin below the burn area down the steep roadway.
Meteorologists posted flood watches for many other areas denuded by fires over the past two years, and also warned of potential coastal flooding.
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 snow had fallen by mid-day Friday at the University of California, Berkeley’s Central Sierra Snow Lab located at 6,900 feet elevation.
Earlier in the week, the state Department of Water Resources found that the Sierra snowpack had water content at only 24 percent of average for the date.