|Calif. storm forces hundreds to flee|
|Thursday, 21 January 2010 11:00|
MSNBC - A third powerful Pacific storm pounded California with heavy rain and snow Wednesday, forcing evacuations of hundreds of homes below wildfire-scarred mountains, shutting a major interstate and unleashing lightning strikes on two airliners.
Fierce winds howled along the coast and in the mountains, and forecasters warned of rainfall rates as high as 1 1/2 inches an hour on soil already saturated from two days of wild weather that caused urban street flooding in coastal cities, spawned a damaging tornado and toppled trees, killing two people.
Despite stern pleas from authorities and door-to-door calls by police officers and sheriff's deputies, some residents refused to comply with evacuation orders issued for Los Angeles-area foothill communities below the steep San Gabriel Mountains where 250 square miles of forest burned in a summer wildfire.
Rick and Starr Frazier put their faith in concrete barriers and a 2-foot-high wall of sandbags on the perimeter of their home in La Canada Flintridge.
"Look at our house, we're pretty well fortified here," Starr Frazier said. "If any rain or mud or anything comes down, it'll be blocked by our barricades and we're very well stocked with food and water."
When they told Los Angeles County deputies they weren't leaving, the deputies asked them to fill out forms stating they'd been advised of the danger. They also were warned it might not be possible to rescue them.
While most others in the Fraziers' community appeared to be complying, officials in nearby Los Angeles reported only about 40 percent compliance by residents of 262 homes in that jurisdiction.
Police Chief Charlie Beck sternly urged the rest to go.
"We're not doing this because your carpet is going to get wet; we're doing it because your life is at risk," Beck told a televised press conference.
Steady rain was expected to continue into the evening, followed by another wave of rain Thursday into Friday.
Santa Cruz Mountain evacuations
Glendale police Sgt. Tom Lorenz said the current threat could be as bad as the 1934 disaster.
Much of the week's concern focused on Paradise Valley, a neighborhood on the upper reaches of winding Ocean View Boulevard in La Canada Flintridge offering spectacular panoramas of Los Angeles.
Lynn Thompson, a resident for 32 years, had barricaded her front door and windows with plywood and already taken family photos to her daughter's house. But she waited for a load of laundry to dry before departing.
In Orange County's Sunset Beach, Nicolette Kimberling, 35, and husband Kenn, 37, helped her elderly grandmother clean up from the tornado that hit her seafront home on Tuesday. Gladys Myers said she was sitting in her bedroom when she heard a roar and her windows exploded.
The storm did serious damage Tuesday, crushing a woman to death with a fallen tree, flooding coastal neighborhoods and leaving thousands without power as lightning and tornadoes surged ashore with fierce winds in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles County beach towns and areas of Orange and San Diego counties.
San Diego sheriff's Lt. Mike Munsey said a woman was killed when a eucalyptus tree with a 10-foot diameter trunk crushed her trailer and a neighbor's in a mobile home park near El Cajon. On Monday, a man was killed near Bakersfield when a tree fell on his home.
In San Pedro, a working class neighborhood near the Port of Los Angeles, several blocks were flooded with about six feet of water when storm drains clogged with debris. Police said 16 people were displaced from flooded homes.
Jerry Bazan spent the afternoon sweeping several inches of water out of his living room, where toys, sodden clothing and furniture were strewn about and a thick layer of mud coated the floor. The water rose quickly in his apartment and some of it was contaminated with sewage.
"It was a heavy downpour, and the drainage system was clogged," he said. "There was nowhere for the water to go, and it just rose up."
A small tornado flipped a parked SUV onto its side and blew out windows in Seal Beach.
A strong jet stream was sending the line of storms ashore from the Pacific Ocean, with the wet weather expected to continue through Thursday.
In Arizona, officials warned residents to prepare for up to 3 feet of snow in the north on Thursday and Friday, up to 4 inches of rain in the Phoenix area and 2 inches of rain around Tucson. Travel on Interstates 40 and 17 was slow after the roads were closed overnight.
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