Los Angeles County braces for 4th day of rain, wind and weather - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Los Angeles County braces for 4th day of rain, wind and weather

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High-storm surf pounds the beach in front of an oil rig at Seal Beach, Calif., Wednesday , Jan 20, 2010. High-storm surf pounds the beach in front of an oil rig at Seal Beach, Calif., Wednesday , Jan 20, 2010.
Chris Rogers takes shelter on a neighbors porch after leaving his home when water started to rush in following a severe downpour in Long Beach, Calif., Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010. Chris Rogers takes shelter on a neighbors porch after leaving his home when water started to rush in following a severe downpour in Long Beach, Calif., Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010.

LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE, Calif. – Los Angeles County authorities say the week's fourth rainstorm is likely to cause significant debris and mud flows and everyone who has been ordered to evacuate should now leave.

Officials say no major incidents have occurred yet, but many of the flood-control debris basins protecting homes below wildfire-scarred mountains are now full.

Fire Department Chief Deputy John Tripp used a televised press conference to warn people who have failed to evacuate that if an incident occurs rescuers would likely not be able to reach them.

More than 1,200 homes have been ordered evacuated in foothill and canyon communities along the San Gabriel Mountains. The new storm is expected to reach the area at midmorning.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE, Calif. (AP) — With more than 1,000 homes already under evacuation orders, already-drenched Southern California prepared Thursday for a fourth powerful storm and mudslides below fire-scarred mountains.

Only scattered showers were reported before dawn but the brunt of the storm was expected by midmorning. The National Weather Service predicted up to 3 inches of rain throughout the day, accompanied by gusts up to 50 mph and up to 20 inches of snow in the mountains.

Waves of 15 to 20 feet pounded the coast, bringing the threat of flooding in beach communities.

Flash flood watches were up for foothill communities below mountains that were denuded by wildfires last year. A week's worth of rain has soaked hillsides in the San Gabriel Mountains northeast of downtown Los Angeles, where 250 square miles of forest burned in a summer wildfire.

The rain filled catch basins with muddy slop.

But the basins, sandbags and concrete barriers along foothill streets were holding and no serious problems were reported by early Thursday morning.

"We're crossing our fingers," Los Angeles County sheriff's spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said. "I think if we can get through today, we'll be OK."

More than 1,000 homes remained under mandatory evacuation orders in foothill areas of Los Angeles, Glendale and La Canada Flintridge. Sheriff's deputies manned street barricades and conducted roaming patrols to protect emptied homes.

Farther north, the California Highway Patrol was escorting cars through the icy, snowy Tejon Pass section of Interstate 5, the main highway between Los Angeles and Northern California. The pass, known as the Grapevine, was closed for hours Wednesday because of poor conditions.

On Wednesday, 2 to 3 inches of rain fell in many areas.

As the rain fell in sheets on the fire-scarred mountainsides above La Canada Flintridge, Lynn Thompson barricaded her front door and windows with plywood and stashed her family photos at her daughter's house.

Like hundreds of foothill residents, Thompson packed her possessions and evacuated her home of 32 years, but not before her load of laundry dried.

"Sometimes you have to pay big bucks for these views, both emotionally and financially," she said Wednesday.

As Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa toured the Riverwood Ranch development in Tujunga to urge them to evacuate, cars were parked in driveways, horses were still in barns and smoke rose out of fireplaces.

Even though police officers and sheriff's deputies went door-to-door asking residents to leave, some refused to comply with evacuation orders.

Nishida said about 75 percent of the people contacted by sheriff's deputies at more than 500 homes agreed to leave.

Deputies warned it might not be possible to rescue those who stay behind and asked them to fill out forms stating they'd been advised of the danger. Los Angeles officials reported only about 40 percent compliance by residents of 262 hillside homes in that jurisdiction.

Police Chief Charlie Beck sternly urged the rest to go, saying: "We're not doing this because your carpet is going to get wet; we're doing it because your life is at risk."

Henrik Hairapetian, 40, who builds custom 4-by-4 vehicles for a living, said he was undeterred because his Hummer H-1 would help him and his family escape the mud.

"I've driven through some hairy stuff and I'm sure we can get out if we need to," he said.

Hairapetian's neighbors all evacuated their homes, leaving him to guard their small cul-de-sac next to a burned hillside, where little tufts of grass were beginning to sprout where the summer's wildfire consumed the vegetation that would normally capture or slow runoff.

A few blocks up the street, public works crews checked Mullally Basin, which was gradually filling with mud and debris swept down from the hills.

Officials said the 28 flood-control debris basins protecting the area were near capacity but continue to function as designed.

The storms were testing months of preparations in burn-area neighborhoods from northeastern Los Angeles through La Crescenta, Glendale, La Canada Flintridge and Altadena.

Southern California has a history of fatal debris flows: 30 killed and 483 homes destroyed in 1934 in the Los Angeles-area foothills, and 16 killed in 2003 to the east in the San Bernardino Mountains.

In Northern California, 50 homes were ordered evacuated as a central coast river rose near Felton Grove in the Santa Cruz Mountains, but it receded later in the day.

The Grapevine stretch of Interstate 5 was closed for hours due to snow and ice in Tejon Pass north of Los Angeles.

Since the beginning of the week, more than 300,000 Southern California Edison customers had lost power.

___

Associated Press writers Daisy Nguyen and Robert Jablon in Los Angeles, Juliet Williams in Sacramento, Sudhin Thanawala in San Francisco and Gillian Flaccus in Orange County contributed to this report.

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