Biggest Storm of the Season Prompts Evacuations

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The occupants of 180 homes in Duarte were under mandatory evacuation orders in the face of today's expected storm, which forecasters said would be the biggest so far this season, threatening to unleash monster winds, flash flooding, mud slides and cascades of debris down slopes stripped bare by wildfires.

The evacuation orders were issued Thursday, before any rain appeared, and were due to go into effect at 7 this morning, when the alert level for neighborhoods below the Fish Fire burn area will be raised to red. Additionally, classes were canceled at Valley View School in anticipation of the storm.

Volunteers went door-to-door in affected neighborhoods Thursday afternoon, notifying residents about the evacuation orders. An evacuation center will be set up at the City Hall Community Center at 1600 Huntington Drive.

“Evacuated residents are encouraged to bring medicines and any other items they may need for a minimum 48-hour period,'' according to a notice issues by the city. “Meals will be provided to all evacuees and L.A. County Animal Control has made their mobile shelter on site for those that need to bring animals.''

Duarte residents were warned to keep vehicles, trash bins and other obstructions off roadways, and a series of streets were closed in advance of the storm. Closures were ordered at Royal Oaks and Greenbank; Bettyhill and Conata; Royal Oaks and Mel Canyon; eastbound Fish Canyon at Mel Canyon; westbound Fish Canyon at Mel Canyon, Mountaincrest and Deerlane; Brookridge and Tannencrest; and Sunnydale Drive and Westvale Road.

Residents were also bracing for the storm in Glendora, near the site of the Colby wildfire, where officials issued a yellow alert, also ordering residents to remove vehicles and other obstructions from streets to ensure they are not washed away in a mudflow or obstruct emergency vehicles trying to reach the area.

“A strong storm system tapping into deep subtropical moisture will generate heavy rain,'' an NWS statement warned, adding that scattered showers and and a slight chance of thunderstorms are in tonight's forecast. A flash flood watch will be in effect from 7 a.m. through Saturday morning everywhere in Los Angeles County.

The storm will start making itself felt this morning and continue through Saturday morning. Up to an inch of rain per hour is expected in some areas in part because the storm has been tapping into a so-called atmospheric river over the Pacific, sucking up volumes of warm subtropical moisture, forecasters said. Estimates are that the region will receive 2-6 inches of rain in coastal and valley areas and between 5 and 10 inches in the San Gabriel mountains and foothills, they said.

“Strong southerly winds combined with ample moisture will lead to periods of very heavy rain, with rain rates at times of around 1 inch per hour,'' according to the National Weather Service. The rain is expected to taper off Saturday morning, causing the threat of flash flooding to disappear around noon, although scattered showers are possible through Saturday evening.

“There will be the threat of flash flooding with mud and debris flows in and around the recent burn areas, especially with Friday's storm,'' according to the NWS, which said widespread urban roadway flooding is also possible, along with flooding in creeks and small streams, and rock and mudslides, especially near canyon roadways.

High surf is expected along the coast through Sunday as a result of a large storm-generated westerly swell, with the biggest surf expected Saturday. A high surf advisory will be in effect until 7 a.m. Sunday, said the NWS, warning of surf of 8 to 13 feet on Saturday before it diminishes that night.

“Large waves and strong rip currents will increase the risk of ocean drowning for swimmers and surfers,'' according to the NWS statement. “Large breaking waves can cause injury, wash people off beaches or rocks and capsize small boats near shore.''

Also in effect is a small craft advisory that will be in effect until noon today and a gale watch -- issued in cases of winds of between 34 and 47 knots -- through late Saturday night. During that period, there could be combined seas of 14 to 17 feet and inexperienced mariners should stay off the water, the NWS said.

In the mountains, between 1 and 2 feet of snow are possible above 8,000 feet and between 6 and 12 inches above 6,000 feet, the NWS said. The snow level will drop to between 5,000 and 5,500 feet late tonight and Saturday morning.

At the same time, the mountains will be swept by south-to-southeast winds of between 35 and 50 miles per hour, gusting to 70 mph, according to the NWS. A winter storm warning denoting highly challenging travel conditions characterized by snow, fierce winds, blowing snow and icy roads will be in force in the San Gabriel mountains from 7 a.m. today until 11 a.m. Saturday.

“Heavy snow, gusty winds, low visibility in blowing snow, and icy roads make for dangerous driving conditions,'' according to the NWS. “Only travel in an emergency,'' an NWS statement said, adding motorists traveling in mountain areas should have emergency supplies, including a flashlight, food and water, and extra clothing and blankets.

A high wind warning signifying winds or gusts of at least 58 mph will be in effect from 7 this morning until 7 tonight in the Santa Monica Mountain Recreational area and the Santa Clarita Valley, with both areas expected to experience southeast-to-south winds of 30-40 mph and 60-mph gusts. A high wind warning will also be in effect from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. today on Santa Catalina Island, where 35-45 mph winds and 60-mph gusts are forecast.

“Winds this strong will likely down trees and power lines, causing property damage or power outages,'' an NWS statement said.

A less severe wind advisory, signaling winds of at least 35 mph, will be in effect from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys, L.A. County beach cities, metropolitan L.A., the downtown area and the Hollywood Hills, with east-to-southeast winds of 25 to 35 mph expected in those areas, along with 50 mph gusts.

A wind advisory will also be in force, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., in the Antelope Valley, where 25-35 south-to-southeast winds of 25-35 mph are expected, along with 55-mph gusts.

Temperatures, meanwhile, will be mostly in the low 60s today, slipping a few degrees Saturday.

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