Southern California storm-related evacuations canceled

MONTECITO, Calif. (AP) Mandatory evacuation orders for Southern California neighborhoods near several wildfire burn scars were canceled Tuesday morning when a storm arrived weaker than predicted and dropped rain at rates unlikely to trigger debris flows, authorities said.

The National Weather Service also lifted flash-flood watches, saying the system did not come together as well as forecast models had indicated and rain intensities were well below what was expected.

On Monday, Santa Barbara County issued mandatory evacuation orders for areas designated as "extreme risk" in communities along its fire-scarred south coast. The county also recommended evacuation of adjacent areas labeled "high risk." Neighboring Ventura County called for voluntary evacuation of two areas north of Ojai Valley.

The warnings followed the disaster that struck Montecito when an intense Jan. 9 downpour unleashed debris flows from mountains burned bare last year by the largest wildfire in recorded California history.

Advertisement

The flows roared down through coastal foothills to the ocean, destroying or damaging hundreds of homes, killing 21 people and leaving a teenager and a child missing.

Santa Barbara County officials had issued warnings before the disaster but discovered that many people did not heed them. Since then, emergency authorities have revamped the system to encourage cooperation, but also continue to make adjustments.

Tuesday's storm was the first of several expected this week, and the county said each will be monitored and evaluated.

"At this time, none of these systems appear to be a threat of causing debris flows," a statement said.

Elsewhere in California, an advisory for minor flooding was in effect for parts of Mariposa, Madera, Tuolumne and Merced counties and rain and snow showers were occurring in northwest counties.

A winter storm warning was posted in the Sierra Nevada, which forecasters said could receive a foot or more of snow above 4,000 feet (1,219 meters) and up to 3 feet (.91 meter) along the crest and through passes this week.

Severe travel impacts are expected, but the snow would be a welcome boost to an important part of California's water supply. A recent blizzard boosted the Sierra snowpack but measurements found just 39 percent of the water it normally contains by early March.