Forecasters:Worst to Come in CA Storms

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Although the first wave of a worrisome Pacific storm hasn't caused any major problems in California, forecasters say the worst is still to come, leaving authorities and disaster-weary residents on edge.

Record rain fell Wednesday in parts of Southern California where thousands of people have been evacuated because of the threat of debris flows and mudslides from wildfire burn areas.

Although there were no major debris flows as feared, forecasters warned that disaster is still very possible as the rain picks up on Thursday.

"We're very concerned," said National Weather Service meteorologist Joe Sirard. "We're hoping this isn't a cry-wolf scenario where people will pooh-pooh what we're saying."

The storm came ashore on the central coast and spread south into the Los Angeles region and north through San Francisco Bay, fed by a long plume of subtropical moisture called an atmospheric river.

It also moved eastward, bringing the threat of flooding to the San Joaquin Valley and Sierra Nevada, where winter storm warnings for new snow were in effect on the second day of spring.

Record rainfall was recorded in five spots including Santa Barbara, Palmdale and Oxnard, where nearly 1.8 inches (4.5 centimeters) of rain had fallen by Wednesday evening. That's compared to the record of 1.3 inches (7.6 centimeters) set in 1937.

Nearly 5 inches (13 centimeters) of rain had fallen in northern San Luis Obispo County, while 2.7 inches (7 centimeters) fell in Santa Clarita, just north of Los Angeles and 2.6 inches (6.6 centimeters) was recorded at one spot in Santa Barbara County.

Authorities kept a close watch on Santa Barbara County, hoping there would not be a repeat of the massive January debris flows from a burn scar that ravaged the community of Montecito and killed 21 people.

Mud and rockslides closed several roads in the region, including Highway 1 at Ragged Point near Big Sur, not far from where the scenic coast route is still blocked by a massive landslide triggered by a storm last year.

A large pine tree was felled in Los Angeles, landing across a residential street into a picket fence. No one was hurt.

Carolyn Potter, 59, evacuated from her home in Casitas Springs in Ventura County on Wednesday — the fourth time since September — and plans to sleep in her car in a grocery store parking lot to avoid hotel costs and the bustle of an evacuation shelter.

Meanwhile her husband Alan is staying home, just like he has the other three times Potter has evacuated because of fires or storms since September.

"It's OK because we're not fighting," Potter said. "I get to leave and he stays. It's like, 'See you later.' We're both happy.

"I feel better not being under the cliff in my sleep," Potter said. "If he feels OK that's his problem. If something happens maybe I'll zip on down and dig him out."

With the storm expected to last through Thursday, there was concern about the combination of rainfall rates and the long duration, said Suzanne Grimmesey, a spokeswoman for Santa Barbara County.

With the grim Montecito experience in recent memory, Santa Barbara County ordered evacuation of areas along its south coast near areas burned by several wildfires dating back to 2016.

"We actually do feel good about the evacuation order," Grimmesey said. "Law enforcement was out in the extreme risk areas of Montecito yesterday knocking on doors. For those that were home, we had a very good cooperation rate with people leaving."

Many residents in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties have faced repeated evacuations or advisories since December, when a wind-driven fire grew into the largest in recorded state history and destroyed more than 1,000 buildings.

In Los Angeles County, authorities canceled some planned mandatory evacuations because of a projected decrease in rainfall but kept others in place because of debris flows in one canyon area stripped bare by wildfire.

(KA)