LOS ANGELES (AP) — The first in a series of Pacific storms brought heavy rain to Southern California and snow in the mountains Monday, closing some highways and snarling traffic.
Fears were that the rain could unleash mud and debris flows from large burn scars left by last year’s devastating wildfires. Weather forecasters have predicted a series of storms, one after the other, could continue to bring rain and snow into the middle of the week.
Downtown Los Angeles received about an inch of rain Monday. Other areas saw mainly lesser amounts. Another storm was expected to reach the area Tuesday morning, bringing another downpour.
A mandatory evacuation was ordered in Riverside County for a dozen areas around where the Holy Fire, which sparked in August, burned. County officials warned that rain could send mud, boulders and trees crashing down denuded hillsides.
Northwest of Los Angeles in Santa Barbara County, officials announced evacuation orders beginning Tuesday morning for the Thomas, Sherpa and Whittier fire burn areas.
A mudslide closed a 4.4-mile (7-kilometer) section of section of Pacific Coast Highway just north of Malibu on Monday for several hours. The roadway finally reopened in the late afternoon.
High wind and snow snarled traffic north of Los Angeles on Interstate 5, a major route connecting Los Angeles with San Francisco. The roadway remained closed Monday night. California Highway Patrol cars were escorting dozens of trapped cars off the highway.
Among those caught in the I-5 traffic jam was Demetrius Moore, a 35-year-old producer for a court TV show in Chicago, who traveled to California for a warm-weather winter vacation. He said he was driving his rental car from Los Angeles to San Francisco when things ground to a halt in the mountain town of Gorman, 70 miles (110 kilometers) north.
“I have just over a quarter of a tank,” Moore said from his car, where he had been sitting waiting for traffic to clear for more than an hour. “I’m growing concerned. I have water and a little bit of a latte left, no food. I’m just kind of hanging out, hoping for the best and wondering if I’ll get out.”
He estimated about 3 inches (7.5 centimeters) of snow fell while he was stuck in traffic.