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California weathers storm, mudslide fears ease

/ Source: The Associated Press

A Pacific Northwest storm blew through Southern California early Friday without causing much damage or delivering the mudslides and severe flooding that many had feared.

Up to 3 inches of rain had been expected in Orange County canyons burned bare by wildfires earlier in the year. About 1,000 homes were ordered evacuated in the area as a precaution on Thursday, but only about half that amount fell overnight.

Officials had been concerned that people would choke the narrow streets if they waited to leave until it was dark and raining. Only about 40 homes actually were evacuated, officials said, though residents took precautions such as sandbagging.

“We have to go by worst-case scenario and by what the forecasters were telling us,” sheriff’s spokesman Ryan Burris said.

The evacuation order was lifted Friday as the mudslide risk eased. However, flash flood watches remained in effect for burned areas through Friday afternoon and Orange County officials said more rain was expected Saturday evening.

Elsewhere, rain-slicked roads led to multiple traffic accidents. In Burbank, firefighters rescued two people whose car went off Interstate 5 shortly after 5 a.m. and overturned in 2 feet of water in the Los Angeles River.

The storm arrived late Thursday night and the heaviest rain came after midnight. About a half- to three-quarters of an inch fell in coastal and valley areas and up to 2 inches in the mountains.

“The storm pushed through L.A. pretty fast, faster than we were expecting,” National Weather Service Chief Weather Specialist Stuart Seto said. Forecasters, however, said more rain was possible over the weekend.

In Washington state, crews reopened a 20-mile stretch of Interstate 5 to all traffic Friday, four days after it was swamped by floodwater after a previous storm system crashed through the region. Two lanes were open in each direction.