Trifecta Storm Series Underway, Evacuation Orders Downgraded

RIVERSIDE (CNS) - The first of three storms on track to sweep through the Inland Empire in quick succession produced showers and thunderstorms this afternoon but did not trigger any major problems, leading officials to lift evacuation orders for neighborhoods near a burn scar in the Cleveland National Forest where mud and debris flows were expected.

The Riverside County Emergency Management Department issued mandatory evacuations early this morning for the following zones: Amorose, Alberhill (Pacific Clay), Glen Eden, Glen Ivy-A, Glen Ivy-B, Grace, Horsethief-A, Laguna- A, Maitri (Quarry), McVicker-A, Rice and Withrow-A.

However, with storm cells rapidly moving east and the inclement weather abating, the EMD at 4:15 p.m. downgraded the mandatory evacuations to voluntary evacuation warnings, advising residents to be prepared, on short notice, to leave if directed for their safety.

Officials urged residents to check maps at to determine if they are in an evacuation area.

Multiple neighborhoods fell under mandatory evacuation orders at intervals between Jan. 14 and Jan. 17, when the last storm series triggered locally intense downpours, resulting in a number of street closures. Mud and debris flows, however, did not cause any serious damage to residential properties.

A wide area skirting the eastern side of the national forest, bordering Lake Elsinore and the Temescal Valley, was left exposed to potential flood damage because of the 23,000-acre Holy Fire in August. The blaze, allegedly the work of an arsonist, denuded steep terrain below Santiago Peak, permitting water to flow unchecked onto lower slopes where subdivisions are situated.

The low pressure system that arrived from the Gulf of Alaska this morning triggered rain throughout western Riverside County, causing travel disruptions but no closures of major roadways. There were no reports of flooding, though a flood advisory posted by the National Weather Service remained in effect.

According to the NWS, as of 4 p.m., the area east of Moreno Valley had received the highest rainfall in western Riverside County at roughly a half- inch. Temecula recorded .39 inches; Beaumont .35 inches; Lake Elsinore .31 inches; and Riverside Municipal Airport about .30 inches.

At elevations above 5,000 feet, Garner Valley, just south of Idyllwild, recorded the highest amount of precipitation -- .63 inches.

The current system will exit to the east tonight, with showers lingering into Friday morning, according to meteorologists, who said a second Pacific trough will dominate Southern California late Friday night to Saturday night.

``This will be a larger and slower-moving system, and more widespread and heavier precipitation is expected, along with periods of strong gusty southwest to west winds,'' according to the NWS. ``Snow levels will lower to around 5,500 feet for Saturday afternoon and evening, with snowfall totals exceeding one foot possible above 7,000 feet.''

Highs in the Riverside metropolitan area will hover in the upper 50s, while daytime temperatures in Coachella Valley communities will be in the low 60s, according to forecasters.

Rainfall in western Riverside County Saturday could range from 1 to 3 inches, while the deserts may receive 1 to 1.5 inches. Isolated locally heavy downpours are possible, and flash flood warnings may be issued, according to the Weather Service.

The final storm in the series is anticipated Sunday night into Monday, but ``it is not expected to be as strong as the storm on Saturday,'' according to the NWS.

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