Heavy rain tapered off, skies cleared and residents of the Los Angeles area foothills started returning home Sunday, a day after they fled because of fears that heavy rains would cause mudslides.
Fifteen patrol vehicles continued to make rounds in burn areas Sunday, scanning the hillsides for potential mudslides, said the Los Angeles Fire Departments Brian Humphrey.
Public works and fire department officials drove through the wildfire-scarred neighborhoods early Sunday and determined that it was safe for the residents of the 44 evacuated homes in the La Crescenta, La Canada-Flintridge and Big Tujunga Canyon areas to return, said Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department Deputy Lillian Peck.
Foothill areas below the burned sections of the Angeles National Forest had been barricaded with sandbags and concrete barriers. Ground in recently burned areas has little ability to absorb rain, and the instant runoff during heavy rains can carry with it ash, mud, boulders and vegetation.
Weve been planning for these winter storms since summer, since before the wildfires, coordinating with other agencies, said Humphrey. Were confident that our preparedness really paid off.
Several small slides were reported on the highway between La Canada Flintridge and Mount Wilson.
Mudslides and debris closed parts of a 12-mile stretch of the Angeles Crest Highway just north of Los Angeles, leaving 90 vehicles stranded for a time. No injuries were reported. The road remained closed Sunday.
We got a few good dumpings over the past few days, said Bonnie Bartling with the National Weather Service. The system is on its way out, moving off to the east.
Forecasters said some rain was lingering Sunday along the Central Coast but most of the state would see dry weather through midweek.
About 16,000 utility customers throughout Southern California were sporadically without electricity, mostly because of downed branches crashing onto power lines.
Rainfall totals in the wildfire burn areas were less than meteorologists had feared. Just under four inches fell above Arcadia in a 24 hour period ending Sunday and Mount Wilson got about 4.65 inches, according to unofficial NWS reports.
Snows between 8 and 16 inches fell above 6,000 feet in the Southern California mountains. Winds blew at 25 to 35 mph.
While problems in the lowlands eased, heavy snow in Californias mountains made driving difficult. The California Department of Transportation was requiring chains for travel on all major highways over the Sierra.
The National Weather Service said another storm system will bring more heavy rain to Northern California late Tuesday and early Wednesday.
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch through Sunday night for western Plumas County and the west slope of the Sierra Nevada in the north of the state and the mountains of Ventura and Los Angeles counties in the south.
Associated Press Writer John S. Marshall in San Francisco contributed to this story.
The new snow in the mountains is expected to give an early jump to building the snowpack, which is key to the regions water supply. But forecasters say the snow would also bring avalanche danger to the backcountry.