Evacuations of OC canyons ordered as storm bears down

Evacuations of OC canyons ordered as storm bears down

6 December 2007

published by www.mercurynews.com

Los Angeles, USA — Authorities ordered the evacuation of a few thousand people in three Orange County canyons to evacuate Thursday as a fierce storm from the Pacific Northwest closed in on Southern California.

Throughout the day, Orange County sheriff’s patrol cars broadcast the warning through loudspeakers to residents of Modjeska, Williams and Silverado canyons, which were burned bare of slope-protecting trees and brush by wildfires earlier this year.

The evacuations became mandatory at 8 p.m. as the storm approached, sheriff’s spokesman Jim Amormino said. Authorities closed several roads and restricted access in and out of the canyons.

“It’s much better to do it early than wait for the slides to start,” he said. “The canyons are narrow, the roads are narrow. Sometimes if you wait too long, it’s potentially dangerous.”

An evacuation shelter was opened at a high school in Orange.

About 200 homes in the canyons were evacuated for most of the day on Nov. 30 because of flooding concerns as another storm approached. However, the slopes held.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch for coastal and mountain areas through Friday afternoon. The forecast called for winds gusting to about 30 mph ahead of a storm front that could drop up to an inch of rain in urban areas and up to 3 inches in the mountains, said Stuart Seto, chief weather specialist with the weather service in Oxnard.

Southern California has had a very dry rainy season, and it will be the first time since April 2006 that so much rain has fallen from a single storm, Seto predicted.

The heaviest rain was expected to arrive after midnight and move off later Friday, although a chance of showers was forecast through Saturday morning.

Areas denuded by fires were a special concern.

“It doesn’t take much to set off those mud and debris flows,” Seto said.

The weather service also issued a high wind warning for the mountain areas and in the Antelope Valley in north Los Angeles county. The winds were expected to blow 30- to 45 mph, with potentially damaging gusts of up to 60 mph, said meteorologist Todd Hall.

Wildfires this year have stripped vegetation from thousands of acres of land. That land is now susceptible to excessive runoff and erosion.

In Los Angeles County, work crews sandbagged hillsides in Griffith Park, where about 1,200 acres were scorched in May. Other work was under way in Malibu, where a wildfire destroyed 53 homes in November.

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