18 Jan 2010, 5:54pm
Latest Fire News
by admin

First of 3 Pacific storms hit Southern California; hillside residents prepare for mudslides

LA Times, January 18, 2010 | 11:55 am [here]

The first in a series of powerful Pacific storms began sweeping through Southern California today, causing hazardous driving conditions and high surf and prompting flash-flood warnings for fire-ravaged hillsides.

“It looks like we’re definitely in for a rainy week,” said Bill Patzert, a meteorologist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge. “It’s going to get heavier and messier.”

Experts said the system — consisting of three major storms — could be among the most powerful to batter the region since 2005, when record rains drenched the area, causing havoc on roads and hillsides.

[Updated at 12:37 p.m.: Just after noon, the National Weather Service issued a flash-flood warning for foothill areas burned during last year’s Station and Morris fires in the Angeles National Forest. Heavy rain and thunderstorms are forecast for this afternoon and could produce more than an inch of rain an hour. Weather officials said they are concerned such intense rain could trigger mudslides. Commuters should expect heavy downpours during the afternoon commute.]

The National Weather Service was also predicting high surf and fierce winds gusting up to 75 mph, with substantial snowfall in higher elevations. The risk of flash floods and mudslides is especially severe in communities near burn areas, notably those below the 250-square-mile Station fire zone, where authorities cited a serious threat of mud and debris flows.

Officials have put in place large swaths of sandbags and concrete barriers as a precautionary move, while closing sections of Angeles Crest Highway and Big Tujunga Canyon Road.

“We are prepared to deal with anything that nature may throw at us,” said Assistant Fire Chief Mike Metro of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. “Months of preparation have gone on prior to this day.”

Officials have placed 10,000 feet of concrete storm barriers and distributed about 10,000 sandbags, said Pat DeChellis, deputy director of the L.A. County Department of Public Works. No one had yet been evacuated, officials said this morning, and no evacuations were anticipated until Wednesday or Thursday, when the third storm of the week — and potentially heaviest – is expected to roll in.

But early signs of instability are already evident, including a slide of five cubic yards of material that rolled down onto Rock Castle Drive in the La Cañada Flintridge area.

“Debris is starting to move,” DeChellis said.

Although about 75 county firefighting personnel have been dispatched to earthquake-battered Haiti, about 150 area rescue personnel are still ready to react, Metro said. … [more]



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