The heavy rains also prompted flash flood warnings across much of
Southern California and posed a particular threat to foothill
communities where recent wildfires stripped vegetation from large
areas, leaving homes below vulnerable to potential mudslides.
Mandatory evacuations were in effect on Friday for more than 1,200
homes in some slide-prone areas east of Los Angeles, where sandbags
were stacked around driveways and miles of concrete barriers were
lined up along the streets to channel heavy hillside runoff away
The downpours even posed challenges to crews preparing for Sunday
night's Oscar ceremony in Hollywood, soaking parts of the newly
installed red carpet.
California is in its third year of a dry spell that may break all
records in the most populous U.S. state, where lawmakers on Thursday
swiftly passed a series of drought relief proposals to Governor
Jerry Brown for his signature. President Barack Obama has also
pledged millions of dollars in aid.
Friday's storm, and a smaller band of showers on Wednesday, came as
a welcome break in California's relentlessly dry weather but will do
little to significantly ease the state's water crisis.
"Despite these recent storms, it would still have to rain every
other day until around May to reach average precipitation totals,
and even then we would still be in a drought due to the last two dry
years," said Richard Stapler, spokesman for the California Natural
Brown declared a drought emergency last month and has called on
state officials to prepare for water shortages and to develop
solutions for potentially long-term dry weather.
Officials have said that California farmers facing drastic cutbacks
in irrigation water are expected to idle half a million acres of
cropland this year in a record production loss that could cause
billions of dollars in economic damage.
Moderate to heavy rainfall across Southern and Central California on
Friday was expected to taper off by Saturday afternoon, the National
Weather Service said.
The coastal town of Oxnard, just north of Los Angeles, received
nearly 2 inches of rain by late afternoon, the highest precipitation
measured anywhere in the United States during the day, according to
the weather service.
ROCK SLIDES AND RIVER RESCUES
Rain and high winds caused road closures and power outages across
Southern California and brought enough snow that tire chains were
required for driving on mountain roads near the Nevada border.
In Los Angeles, 14,000 customers were without power by mid-morning.
People were soaked as high winds turned umbrellas inside out and
drove the rain nearly sideways as they waited for buses and light
[to top of second column]
Near Malibu, crews worked to clear debris from the Pacific Coast
Highway north of the affluent seaside city after rock slides
prompted officials to shut down a 10-mile (16-km) stretch of the
Patrick Chandler, a spokesman for the California Department of
Transportation, said a large wildfire in the area last year had
weakened the stability of hillsides in the area.
"A lot of times, when you have rain in this area, especially with
the drought, you're going to have a lot of loose rocks coming down,"
Later Friday, the agency closed the Angeles Crest Highway in the San
Gabriel Mountains northeast of Los Angeles after another rockslide
made the road impassable. Several recreation areas in the Angeles
National Forest also were closed.
By noon, there had been 158 vehicle crashes in the Los Angeles area,
112 more than the previous Friday, according to the California
Firefighters rescued two homeless people who had climbed with their
dogs into trees to escape swiftly rising water flowing down the Los
Angeles River near their encampment, and another man was plucked to
safety from another spot along the river later in the day, a fire
department spokesman said.
Air traffic was also affected at Los Angeles International Airport,
where 19 incoming and outgoing flights were cancelled on Friday
morning, officials said.
In northern California, about 13,000 customers lost power in the San
Francisco Bay Area and the wine-making Sonoma County, said Jason
King, a spokesman for the Pacific Gas & Electric utility company.
Although many of those households and businesses had their power
restored by early afternoon, the company expected additional outages
to occur on Friday night as the rainy and windy weather continued,
(Additional reporting by Laila Kearney in San Francisco and Steve
Gorman and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Cynthia Johnson,
Grant McCool and Lisa Shumaker)
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