Southern California Soaked but Stable in Storm

By | December 1, 2008

Wet and weary residents in areas scarred by Southern California wildfires were back in their homes for Thanksgiving after a day of rains brought evacuations and anxiety but none of the threatened flash floods or mudslides.

The last of the flash flood watches that had been in place throughout the region expired Thanksgiving day morning, though isolated showers continued through the day.

All 1,500 people ordered to leave their homes in the Orange County city of Yorba Linda were allowed back in and no major flooding was reported in the hilly suburban communities that burned so dramatically earlier this month.

Northwest of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara County officials lifted evacuation orders for residents of about 2,200 homes. Many had fled their homes for the second time in a month.

Bob Cluff, 76, fled his Anaheim Hills home of 34 years two weeks ago as embers dropped into his backyard and then endured the fear of mudslides from the charred hills above him.

“I feel like I’m extremely blessed,” Cluff said. “When you’ve lived here as long as we’ve lived here, that makes it very difficult to get turned out or flooded out.”

The first big Pacific storm of the season dropped rain heavy enough to trigger scattered flash flood warnings Wednesday before Thanksgiving, but the region largely avoided serious damage.

There were reports of small rock slides in Santa Barbara County, a slipping hillside in Orange County and a small mud flow in a canyon that burned last fall — but officials had feared much worse.

“The weather event is over, that doesn’t mean our work is over,” said William Boyer, spokesman for Santa Barbara County. “This is really just the beginning of the real rainy season.”

In northern Los Angeles County rain fell at nearly an inch per hour at one point Wednesday, and the storm snarled traffic during the Thanksgiving travel rush.

Flooding closed northbound Interstate 5 in San Diego for several hours after at least two vehicles crashed.

In Yorba Linda, where nearly 120 homes burned less than two weeks ago, an unofficial weather station measured nearly 2 inches of rain, and more than an inch of rain fell in some areas of Santa Barbara County.

Without significant damage, the weather was a welcome change from a siege of temperatures in the 80s and 90s with skin-withering Santa Ana winds that fanned destructive wildfires around Southern California. About 1,000 homes were damaged or destroyed fires this month. Dozens more burned in October.

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