Big storm brings new worries to California

LOS ANGELES (AP) The first wave of a powerful Pacific storm spread rain and snow early Friday through much of California, where communities endangered by a wildfire just weeks ago now faced the threat of mud and debris flows.

The barren mountain slopes looming above neighborhoods in the foothills east of Los Angeles were still holding after the first bout of rain, said police Lt. Matt Williams. Mandatory evacuation orders were issued for about 1,000 homes in the area on Thursday.

“We are cautiously optimistic,” Williams said.

Numerous traffic accidents occurred on slick or flooded roads across Southern California, and a 10-mile (8-kilometer) stretch of Pacific Coast Highway west of Malibu was closed as a precaution against possible rockslides from a fire-scarred section of the Santa Monica Mountains.

Rain was also falling in the central coast counties, in the San Francisco Bay region and in the Central Valley. Winter storm warnings were in effect in the Sierra Nevada for heavy snowfall.

Forecasts called for the storm to last through Saturday in California, bringing some relief amid a long-running drought, and to spread east into similarly parched neighboring states. Phoenix was expecting its first noticeable precipitation in two months.

Around San Francisco Bay, the storm led to an urban and small stream flood warning, as rain in excess of a half-inch an hour moved in, according to the National Weather Service. Wet roadways and crashes slowed the morning commute, and there were isolated power outages.

Some arriving flights at San Francisco International Airport were delayed by more than four hours, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The storm’s full force was expected to be felt later Friday morning, with possible thunderstorms and rains up to an inch per hour, the National Weather Service said.

California’s Department of Water Resources says its latest survey shows the Sierra Nevada snowpack is still well below normal ?bad news for the drought-stricken state.

The survey was made Thursday as the first of two back-to-back Pacific storms lightly blanketed the Sierra with fresh snow.

The department says manual and electronic readings show the snowpack’s statewide water content at 24 percent of average for the date.

The northern and central Sierra snowpack provides about a third of California’s water supply.

More snow is expected from the week’s second and more powerful storm which is expected to arrive late Thursday and last into Saturday.

(Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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