Nine Los Angeles canyon homes were evacuated today and people in nearby foothill communities packed their cars and got ready to flee in case a rainstorm brought mud and rocks flowing down from fire-blackened slopes.
The National Weather Service predicted a cold storm from Canada would bring strong winds and an inch or two of rain in most areas of Southern California, with up to 4 inches in some locations.
Nine homes were placed under mandatory evacuation in Sunland, one of a chain of foothill communities northeast of downtown Los Angeles that were threatened by the huge Station Fire this summer.
That blaze charred 250 square miles of Angeles National Forest while burning 89 homes and reducing slopes of water-retaining timber and brush to stumps and ash.
A task force several months ago identified the nine canyon homes as being in a potential site of mudslides or flooding, but no problems had been reported by early afternoon, said Chris Ipsen, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Emergency Management Department.
People in 13 other homes were warned to be prepared to evacuate if the situation worsens, Ipsen said.
Sandbags and concrete barriers were put in place not long after the fire was doused.
Mudslide worries remained high in La Canada Flintridge, about 14 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles.
In the Paradise Valley neighborhood, homeowner Gary Stibal kept watch on the burned mountain slope that rises sharply from his backyard. His yard was freshly cleared of 5 feet of mud that gushed down during a brief cloudburst earlier this fall.
“People are nervous,” he said as raindrops pattered on his umbrella. “It’s letting up a little bit now, but I guess there’s more heavy stuff coming in later.”
His car was packed and, like others in the neighborhood, was parked in the driveway facing the street for a quick getaway.
Stibal also kept an eye on runoff.
“It’s starting to get a little muddy now; earlier this morning it was clear water coming down but now as the ground gets more saturated it’s more of the ash,” he said.
Residents who see signs of any problem shouldn’t wait to be ordered to leave, said Bob Spencer of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works.
“If they can see debris flowing down the street … the best, wisest and safest thing to do is just get in the vehicle and just go down the hill and leave,” he said.
Police officers went to the top of Haines Canyon and advised residents in a handful of homes that they should be ready to leave, said resident April Faieta. The homes are just below a flood control debris basin with towering denuded slopes.
Faieta said she and several other neighbors would remain in their homes, noting that she evacuated three times due to the Station Fire and the home was not affected.
“Everybody left a little too early. … Everybody’s just waiting,” she said.
Elsewhere, the hills east of San Francisco Bay saw a rare overnight dusting of snow, with snow also predicted for Fresno and other Central Valley communities.
In the Central Valley, California’s agricultural heart, a hard freeze was expected with lows in the upper 20s.
In the mountains, the storm could bring 1 to 2 feet of snow while falling as low as 1,500 feet, forecasters said.
In San Diego, the National Weather Service issued a warning of high winds. Gusts up to 60 mph were forecast.
Two storms from the tropical Pacific were expected to arrive on Thursday and Saturday.