Heavy Rain Brings Potential For Flooding, Debris Flows In Riverside County

RIVERSIDE (CNS) - The brunt of a powerful storm slammed Riverside County today, prompting flooding that washed away a shed and threatened a home in Lake Elsinore and prompting evacuation orders around recent burn areas.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch that remains in place until this evening throughout Riverside County, including the Coachella Valley. The NWS later issued a flash flood warning and flood warning for selected areas of the county.

By mid-morning, 1 to 2 inches of rain had already fallen in the Cranston Fire burn area near Idyllwild, with flooding anticipated in the San Jacinto River, Hurkey Creek and other streams near Lake Hemet. A flash flood warning was issued for the area until 12:45 p.m.

A separate flood warning was issued for urban areas and small streams in the county, particularly in the areas of Cabazon, Murrieta and Lake Elsinore.

``Additional heavy rain will move into the region this afternoon and exacerbate ongoing flooding conditions,'' the NWS warned.

Water raged through a flood-control channel in Lake Elsinore, washing away a shed alongside a large home, which also found itself in danger of washing away.

The Riverside County Emergency Management Department had initially posted voluntary evacuation warnings for the residential areas impacted by the Holy Fire in August, but those warnings were elevated to mandatory evacuation orders Tuesday afternoon.

All of the affected properties front the burn scar areas from the 23,000-acre Holy Fire within the Cleveland National Forest. Residents of the following neighborhoods were ordered to leave: Amorose, Alberhill, Glen Eden, Glen Ivy-A & B, Grace, Horsethief-A & B, Laguna-A, Maitri, McVicker-A, Rice and Withrow-A.

Voluntary evacuation warnings remain in effect for Alvarado-A and Lakeside-A, and McVicker-B was added to the voluntary evacuation order Thursday morning.

A wide area skirting the eastern boundary of the Cleveland National Forest was left exposed to potential flood damage because of the Holy Fire, which denuded steep terrain below Santiago Peak, permitting water to flow unchecked onto lower slopes where subdivisions are situated.

A care and reception center has been established at Temescal Canyon High School, 28755 El Toro Road, Lake Elsinore.

Evacuation warnings are also in effect for areas impacted by the 13,000-acre Cranston Fire in August, including the Apple Canyon, Fleming Ranch, Hurkey Creek and Strawberry Creek communities. The areas generally parallel state Routes 74 and 243 between Lake Hemet and Idyllwild, where the fire consumed large swaths of wilderness in the San Bernardino National Forest.

A care and reception center has been established at Idyllwild School, 26700 Highway 243.

The arson fire left properties exposed to mud and debris flows, during which ``boulders and trees (may come) crashing down hillsides,'' according to an EMD statement.

County officials urged residents to check maps at www.RivCoReady.org/StormReady to determine if they are in an evacuation area. Residents can also sign up for emergency alert notifications via the website.

In a 24-hour period ending around 3 a.m., Lake Elsinore had the highest precipitation total, with 1.26 inches, followed by 1.10 inches in Temecula, 0.87 inches near the Banning Bench, 0.71 in Hemet, 0.64 in the Riverside metropolitan area and 0.23 at the Palm Springs airport, according to the NWS.

The most steady and intense rain was expected through early this afternoon, then the storm will die down by this evening, according to the NWS.

The Riverside metropolitan area and Lake Elsinore are forecast to get up to 1.8 inches of rainfall, while up to 2.7 inches is expected in the San Gorgonio Pass, and the Coachella Valley will receive between four-tenths and three-quarters of an inch, forecasters said. Idyllwild and Pine Cove could get up to 6 inches of precipitation.

Snow levels will remain above 8,000 feet during the day then drop to around 6,000 feet tonight, forecasters said.

South to southwest winds of 25 to 35 mph, with gusts reaching 55 mph, are expected late this afternoon through this evening, according to the NWS.

During a three-part storm series between Jan. 31 and Feb. 4, the EMD issued mandatory evacuation orders covering the Glen Ivy, Horsethief Canyon and McVicker Park communities on the north side of Lake Elsinore and south of El Cerrito, along Interstate 15.

Mud and debris flows prompted several street closures, but no significant damage was reported.

A chance of scattered showers will return Friday evening and remain through Monday.

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