Mudslides threaten California amid heavy rain

Mudslides threaten California amid heavy rain

The Thomas Fire, sparked in December, is the single largest fire by acreage in California history, destroying vast swaths of land in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. "The worst of the storm has passed over".

People can not be forced to leave their homes under a mandatory evacuation order, but authorities said they should not be expected to be rescued while the storm event is occurring. Foothill and mountain areas could see as much as 3 inches of rain from the storm.

He said the county's interactive evacuation map was also updated Friday to reflect changes to the evacuation orders.

The California Department of Transportation said 90-miles stretch of Interstate 80 was closed between Colfax, California, and the Nevada state line due to whiteout conditions. Total snowfall of 12 inches or more through Saturday will be possible in higher elevation mountain areas.

The threshold for debris flows begin with rain intensities of 0.5 inch per hour, and this storm has the possibility of exceeding that amount in Santa Barbara County.

The cold and unstable storm arrived overnight with bouts of hail and rain, sometimes heavy, and left a coat of white on mountain ranges east of Los Angeles and southward through the interior of San Diego County.

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"We had assessed the area to be safe to open to the public and unfortunately an avalanche did occur after that assessment was made", Hepburn said.

Predictions of widespread showers raised concern about flash flooding when the storm reaches Southern California.

People living near the Thomas, Whittier and Sherpa fire burn areas were evacuated on Thursday because of the potential for damaging mud and debris flows.

Thousands of residents in a Southern California county where 21 people died from mudslides in January were advised on Wednesday to leave their homes, ahead of a rainstorm that officials said could again trigger a cascade of mud and rocks.

No information was available on the rate of rainfall, but some areas above Goleta and Montecito did receive more than 2 inches during the course of the storm. Twenty-one people were killed and two remain missing.

Brown said evacuations in wildfire burn areas will be part of "the new normal" following the devastation in Montecito.