Environment

6 killed as powerful storm hits California, more heavy rain expected


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A powerful Pacific storm hit southern California on February 2 and 3, 2019, bringing heavy rain and strong winds. During the peak of the storm, coastal and valley areas received up to 25 mm (1 inch) of rain per hour. Key highways were shut down as mud and water rushed down from wildfire burn areas. 6 people died during the storm and at least 9 others were injured. 

The system brought more than 100 mm (4 inches) of rain at lower elevations and several feet of snow and road-closing whiteout conditions in the mountains. The strongest wind gust was measured in Santa Barbara County – 128 km/h (80 mph), downing trees and power lines across the region. Over 33 000 customers were left without power.

Mandatory evacuation orders were issued for Woolsey Fire burn area – Seminole Springs Mobile Home Estates in Agoura Hills and Paseo Canyon Malibu West in Malibu. Evacuations were also ordered or recommended for neighborhoods near the Thomas, Whittier and Sherpa fire scars.

Mud as high as 90 cm (3 feet) deep closed stretches of Highway 101 in Santa Barbara County and the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu.

Multiple accidents were reported, including one on Interstate 5 that killed a volunteer member of the Ventura County search-and-rescue team and injured 9 others.

As reported by the AP, the team from Ventura County was on its way to a training exercise on February 2 when members stopped to help at the scene of a single-vehicle rollover crash. A minivan carrying a family was traveling too fast for the wet conditions, lost control and plowed into members of the team, Los Angeles County fire Capt. Tony Imbrenda said. Nine people were transported to hospitals, including three members of the team. 

5 people died on February 3, after a twin-engine Cessna 414A crashed into a home shortly after taking off of Fullerton Municipal Airport. Orange County Sheriff’s Lt. Cory Martino says the pilot died as well as four occupants of the home in Yorba Linda, which is about 56 km (35 miles) southeast of Los Angeles. The debris is reportedly scattered over four blocks.

Winter storm and avalanche warnings were in place in the Sierra Nevada where several feet of snow fell on areas already loaded with snow dumped by a series of storms in January. NWS said the area could see up to 3 m (10 feet) of snow over the next few days.

Weather officials said another system will bring heavy rainfall and a risk of flash flooding and debris flows near burn scars in California, heavy mountain snow in the Sierras and Cascades, and low-elevation snow in the Pacific Northwest into northern California through Tuesday, February 5.

Featured image credit: Pete Demetriou @knxpete

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