VOTE NOW: Final Quarter Friday Night Favorite

Storm Spares Southern California Area Previously Struck by Mudslides

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Rain moved through Southern California early Friday, sparing a strip of coastal communities from a repeat of deadly mudslides that struck in January.

Evacuation orders affecting up to 30,000 people on the south Santa Barbara County coast were lifted at midmorning.

“The worst of the storm has passed and we are cautiously optimistic that due to a significant amount of pre-storm preparation we have come through this with minimal impact,” said Rob Lewin, director of the county Office of Emergency management.

Rain fell at a rate of 0.6 inch (1.5 centimeter) per hour and initial assessments showed no damage to electrical, gas or water service, the county said.

Some minor roadway flooding occurred, but the region’s main highway, U.S. 101, remained open throughout the storm.

Officials said 87 percent of those in the threatened areas complied with the evacuation order, which was issued because of concern the storm could unleash debris flows from mountains burned bare by wildfires.

The order encompassed Montecito, where a Jan. 9 storm triggered flash floods that destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes. Twenty-one people were killed and two remain missing.

Other areas impacted by the order were Goleta, Santa Barbara, Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria.

Sheriff Bill Brown said the evacuation was ordered because models of the storm showed a “risk to life and property and risk of disruption to critical services.”

Department of Public Works official Tom Fayram said there would have been problems if not for work that had been done to clear channels of debris from the January storm.

A voluntary evacuation was also lifted in neighboring Ventura County, where debris blocked a rural highway.

The storm pressed on across metropolitan Los Angeles, where the National Weather Service said there could be flooding near five wildfire burn areas. Heavy snow was expected in the mountains.

In the Sierra Nevada, a snowboarder who went missing during a blizzard Thursday was found dead at Squaw Valley near Lake Tahoe. Placer County authorities identified him as Wenyu Zhang, 42, of Rocklin. The cause of death was not immediately determined.

The blizzard warning expired Friday in the Sierra Nevada, where forecasters said moderate to heavy snow and howling winds would last through Saturday. Travel through the range was discouraged.

Twenty-four-hour Sierra snowfall totals by early Friday included 4 feet (122 centimeters) at Mammoth Mountain.

The snow will help the snowpack, which is vital to the state’s water supply and has only been about a quarter of its normal depth for this time of winter. It’s also a boon for skiers and snowboarders.