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Third Storm Bringing Drenching Rain To SoCal Through Friday, Snow Temporarily Closes Grapevine

MONROVIA (CBSLA) – Yet another storm was bearing down on the Southland Wednesday, this one expected to bring heavy rainfall that will continue through Friday, creating the possibility of dangerous mud flows in wildfire burn areas and treacherous driving conditions due to snow and ice through mountain passes such as the Grapevine.

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Trucks are turned around because of the closure of the 5 Freeway through the Grapevine. Jan. 27, 2021. (CBSLA)

After being temporarily opened Tuesday afternoon, the 5 Freeway through the Grapevine was again shut down between Castaic and Fort Tejon at 6 a.m. Wednesday due to snow and blustery winds. However, just before noon it reopened, but with escorts from California Highway Patrol officers.

"We're hoping to keep it open as long as we can, but the weather will tell," Officer Richard Anthes said.

Eleven people and two dogs were rescued early Wednesday morning in the Angeles National Forest north of Santa Clarita after their cars got stranded for about 10 hours in ice on a remote road due to a GPS mishap caused by the closure of the Grapevine. According to Santa Clarita Valley Search & Rescue, the cars were directed to the Old Ridge Route via GPS because of the 5 Freeway shut down.

The storm, meanwhile, is expected to bring 1.5 to 3 inches of rain to low-lying areas in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, and up to 10 inches of rain to mountain areas.

"We've been unfortunate so far, we haven't had a lot of rain, so we need the rain and it's kind of good it's hitting during the week so people can get out and enjoy their weekends," Jeff Whitaker, a Ventura resident, said.

Though not everyone was as excited for the prospect of the downfall, with restaurants just allowed to reopen for outdoor dining now having to contend with Mother Nature.

"It is a bit of a bummer," Lindsay Hays, a bartender, said. "We're hoping we can, you know, just do with what we have."

And the Ventura County Fire Department was staffing up ahead of the rainfall, though Fire Capt. Brian McGrath said the rain was not expected to trigger debris flows from the 2017 Thomas Fire and 2019 Woolsey Fire burn scars.

"If you get too much water too fast, it just sheds off the ground, very quickly," McGrath said.

Santa Barbara County's mountains could receive up to 8 inches of rain.

Forecasters are calling the storm an "atmospheric river" of moisture that will persist into Friday. Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties will see heavy rainfall Tuesday through Thursday, while L.A. County will see its heaviest rain on Thursday and Friday.

The heavy rain could lead to dangerous debris flows in recent wildfire burn areas such as the Bobcat Fire burn area in the San Gabriel Mountains north of Monrovia. Residents have been shoring up their properties with gravel bags.

"We've got a big slope here so it's hard to say how hard and fast things can happen if there's a problem," Monrovia homeowner David Hasenauer said.

And the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department reported Wednesday that an evacuation warning has been issued for Mountain Home Village, Oak Glen and Northeast Yucaipa due to the burn scar from last September's El Dorado Fire.

In preparation, Cherry Valley resident David Parton was getting ready to place sandbags out to protect his home if needed, though he was hoping he wouldn't need to use them.

"I have to figure out where the best spot to put them is," he said. "Like I said, I've never see [the creek] crest the street."

Parton's home is just one house away from the bone-dry Little San Gorgonio Creek, which has already been reinforced to divert water away from homes.

Cal Fire Capt. Richard Cordova said the rain projected to fall higher up on the San Bernardino Mountains tomorrow at the 6,000-foot level means the snowpack will start to melt, adding to the danger by potentially triggering even more debris flow.

"And what that means is those residents should start packing their stuff they need, proper paperwork, medication, pets, whatever they're gonna take with them," Cordova said.

Some areas could see flood warnings posted as the storm moves closer, and residents in flood-prone areas will likely be urged to be prepared to evacuate at a moment's notice.

Snow levels in the mountains could drop to 4,500 feet by Thursday night, according to the National Weather Service. Elevations above 6,000 feet could see anywhere from 1 to 3 inches of snow.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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