Paul Elias and John Antczak
(AP) — The latest in a series of Pacific Ocean storms pounded California with rain and snow Thursday, prompting officials to put communities on alert for mudslides and flooding and making travel treacherous.
Runoff flowed from the San Francisco Bay Area to the Sierra Nevada foothills and from Central Coast counties to Los Angeles and the inland region to the east.
Blizzard conditions blanketed the higher elevations of the Sierra Nevada with snow while high surf rolled ashore along the coast.
Concern was high in communities near burn scars of recent wildfires.
A flash flood warning went into effect this morning for the area of Butte County burned by the Camp Fire, which destroyed the town of Paradise in November. The warning is in effect until 11:15 a.m.
Cal Fire and the Butte County Fire Department's Swift Water Team responded to a call this morning about an unoccupied car stuck on a flooded roadway in Chico. They tweeted about the incident, warning drivers not to try to cross flooded roads in the area.
CAL FIRE/BCFD Swift Water Team responded to a vehicle in the water on Hamilton Nord Cana Hwy north of Anita road. Team members made access to the vehicle to check for occupants but it was unoccupied. Roadways are flooded, please do not take a chance crossing with your vehicle! pic.twitter.com/9QRxOqaBo7— CAL FIRE Butte Unit/Butte County Fire Department (@CALFIRE_ButteCo) January 17, 2019
The National Weather Service warned of the "dangerous situation" and the risk of mud and debris flows as rain comes down in Butte County. They recommend that residents in or near the burned areas be prepared to evacuate if necessary.
The severely burned areas of Paradise, Pulga, Concow, the Feather River tributaries and Highway 70 and the Skyway are particularly at risk, according to the warning.
Residents of these areas can pick up sand and sandbags to protect themselves against flooding at Fire Stations 26, 25 and 67 in Chico and Oroville.
Locations for sand and bags in Butte County. Please bring a shovel to load bags. #FlashFloodWatch— Butte County, CA (@CountyofButte) January 17, 2019
Fire Station 26
1726 Honey Run Road
Chico, CA 95928
Fire Station 25
3487 Durham Pentz Road
Oroville, CA 95965
Fire Station 67
3911 Cherokee Road
Oroville, CA 95965 pic.twitter.com/AsPCju1AIi
The Santa Barbara County community of Montecito that was devastated by a deadly debris flow a year ago received 1.5 inches of rain in 24 hours, but had so far avoided a repeat of the disaster.
Areas under evacuation orders included parts of fire-scarred Malibu, where all public schools were closed. Several vital canyon roads in the area were closed due rock fall danger.
At least five deaths have been reported during the week of stormy weather.
Three people, including a 1-year-old girl, were killed Tuesday when a car went out of control Tuesday during heavy rain in El Dorado County, the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper reported.
Wednesday saw toppled trees, snarled roads and downed power lines all around Northern California, sometimes with deadly consequences.
A homeless man who may have been trying to shelter under some trees near an Oakland freeway was killed when the tree toppled and he was crushed by a 30-foot-long branch, authorities said.
The man may have been "just trying to stay dry," California Highway Patrol Officer Herman Baza said. "Unfortunately, that protection was deadly."
In Napa County, one person died when a car went out of control on a wet roadway and hit another vehicle, the California Highway Patrol said.
Tens of thousands of people were without electricity in Pacific Gas & Electric utility areas, including more than 15,000 in San Jose late Wednesday night.
The weather service issued a high surf warning for San Francisco County through Friday, with 30-foot (9-meter) breakers along the coast of the North Bay, Monterey Bay and Big Sur.
Weather concerns also kept a stretch of scenic Highway 1 in Big Sur closed.
San Francisco saw only an inch of rain but Venado in Sonoma County got 5 inches over 24 hours.
Rain and winds forced the cancellation of more than 140 flights at San Francisco International Airport.
In Southern California, fog on a mountain highway triggered a 19-vehicle crash. Thirty-five people were evaluated for injuries after the pileup on Interstate 15 in Cajon Pass, but most declined to be taken to hospitals, the San Bernardino County Fire Department said.
In areas recently scarred by wildfires, authorities feared small rivers and creeks would flood their banks and cause massive mudslides, further damaging communities struggling to recover from a historically bad fire season.
The blazes stripped hillsides of trees and other vegetation that stabilize soil and prevent mudslides, putting at risk thousands of people living in foothill and canyon areas devastated by wildfires.
The hillsides were holding but people in burn areas were urged to remain alert.
In Malibu, a boulder crashed into a car, injuring the driver.
Antczak reported from Los Angeles.
Capital Public Radio staff contributed to this report.
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