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Storm Descends On Southland As Thousands Evacuate

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Heavy rainfall drenched Santa Barbara and Ventura counties Wednesday, and began to move into Los Angeles County, as a large storm hit Southern California amid concerns that burn areas could see flooding, mudslides and debris flows.

About 30,000 people have been evacuated in the Thomas, Sherpa and Whittier burn areas in Santa Barbara County, along with another 2,500 in Ventura County.

Thousands more went under mandatory evacuations in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains of Los Angeles County Wednesday night, specifically in the Creek Fire and La Tuna Canyon Fire burn areas.

Earlier mandatory evacuations in Kagel, Lopez and Little Tujunga Canyons were canceled Wednesday evening.

La Tuna Canyon Road will be open from the 9400 block to Sunland Boulevard for locals only and will remain closed from the 9400 block to the 210 Fwy.

Evacuated cities in Santa Barbara County include Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria. In Ventura County, mandatory evacuations were issued for La Conchita, Matilija Canyon, North Fork and Casitas Springs to Nye Road. The city of Ventura was under a voluntary evacuation.

The Ventura County of Education announced Wednesday the following schools would be closed Thursday as a precautionary measure:

  • Santa Paula Unified School District
  • Ventura High School, DATA Middle School and Loma Vista Elementary School
  • Ojai Unified School District
  • Mupu Elementary School District
  • Briggs Elementary School District
  • VCOE special education classrooms at Ventura High School
  • VCOE Ojai TEAMS site at Nordhoff High School
  • Ventura Charter School

Highway 33 north of Ojai was closed in both directions Wednesday morning, with debris on the highway. This came after the freeway was shut down earlier this month after burn-scarred hillsides gave way and dumped mud and debris on the road.

In Montecito, following the deadly January mudslides in the area ravaged by the Thomas Fire, there remains anxiety over whether basins and creeks will be able to handle the rainfall over the next few days.

Still, some Montecito residents opted to stay in their homes despite the mandatory evacuation order in place for Wednesday evening.

Flash flood watches were in effect for most of Southern California.

The storm arrived Tuesday evening and is expected to last through Friday. While rainfall expectations for L.A. County were scaled down slightly since Tuesday, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties are still expected to receive 2 to 5 inches of rain in coastal and valley areas and between 5 and 10 inches across the foothills and coastal slopes.

The storm is a combination of a strong Eastern Pacific weather system greatly bloated by an "atmospheric river" consisting of a subtropical plume of moisture. The heaviest rain is not expected to be generated until late Wednesday evening.

"Widespread urban roadway flooding is possible as well as rockslides and mudslides, especially near canyon roadways," the National Weather Service said. "As a result, there could be significant travel delays and road closures across the region between Tuesday and Thursday night."

The 101 Freeway in Santa Barbara County, near Carpinteria, which shut down for several weeks in January following the devastating Montecito mudslides, is at risk.

A flash flood watch will be in effect from Wednesday evening through late Thursday night, not only in burn areas of Los Angeles County, but also in urban areas. It will be in effect in the San Gabriel and Santa Monica mountains; the San Gabriel, San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valleys; Los Angeles, including the coast, metropolitan Los Angeles, downtown, and the Hollywood Hills; and both coastal and inland Orange County.

Duarte city officials said the city would adopt a "yellow alert" status at noon Wednesday in areas below the 2016 Fish Fire burn area. The alert calls for residents to move vehicles, trash bins and other large items out of streets to keep them clear for emergency crews and prevent items from being washed away.

The city also plans to close Mel Canyon Road to through-traffic below the burn area beginning at 6 p.m. The street will remain closed to at least 7 a.m. Friday.

Valley View Elementary School, which is on Mel Canyon, will remain open, but students must be dropped off and picked up on Deerlane Drive.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department advised people who reside in the areas affected by the La Tuna Canyon, Creek and Skirball fires to prepare for evacuations and street closures.

Evacuations are anticipated to begin at 6 p.m. in the following areas:

-- Voluntary evacuations were issued for the 9000 block of La Tuna Canyon Road to Sunland Boulevard; from Day Street (north border) to Plainview Avenue (east border) to Sherman Grove Avenue (west border).

-- Voluntary evacuations were called for in the Blue Sky Road, Columbus Drive and Overlook Terrace neighborhoods of Anaheim Hills.

The city of Burbank, meanwhile, reissued a voluntary evacuation order, pushing it back from 8 p.m. Wednesday night to 6 a.m. Thursday to continue through at least 6 p.m. Thursday for the following streets in danger of flooding and mud flows due to the recent La Tuna Fire:

  • Country Club Drive east of via Montana
  • All of Hamline Place
  • Groton Drive east of Kenneth

All of Burbank's hiking trails have been closed, along with the Stough Canyon Nature Center and Wildwood Canyon recreation area, until further notice.

(©2018 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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