Five killed in California storms, as Northeast braces for possible 'flash freeze'

Two winter storms are expected to hit the Midwest and Northeast.

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By Minyvonne Burke and Associated Press

At least five people died this week in storms that battered different parts of California with heavy rain, wind and snow.

The Midwest and Northeast, meanwhile, are preparing for two storms, including one expected to dump several inches of snow in certain areas and could lead to a “flash freeze.”

Four people, including a family of three, were killed in two separate car accidents in Northern California because of slick roads, the California Highway Patrol said Thursday.

A 42-year-old homeless man was killed when a large tree fell on a camp he had set up near an Oakland freeway, authorities said. In Los Angeles County, a 57-year-old hiker was in critical condition after being struck by a large boulder that tumbled down a hillside in Malibu, the county sheriff’s department said.

Evacuation orders were issued for parts of Southern California that had been ravaged by recent wildfires and were at risk of flash floods. Schools in Malibu were closed as a precaution and more than 140 flights were canceled at San Francisco International Airport.

Evacuation orders in the burn zone of the Woolsey Fire, which charred more than 96,000 acres late last year and destroyed some 1,500 structures, were lifted later Thursday, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said.

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By Thursday afternoon, the Getty Center in Los Angeles received over 6 inches of rain from a series of three storms that hit the region this week, and an area in the Ventura County mountains got more than 10 inches over the same period, according to the National Weather Service.

A Riverside County Transportation employee watches as water flow runoff caused the closing of Temescal Canyon Road near Horsethief Canyon Road below the Holy Fire burn area in Corona, Calif. on Jan. 17, 2019.Will Lester / The Orange County Register via AP

Twenty-one homes in the Hollywood Hills were evacuated Thursday morning because of the threat of mudslides and debris flows, the Los Angeles Fire Department said. Deputy Chief Armando Hogan said soil geologists were called in as a precaution because "these events are unpredictable." Residents were allowed to return home later.

Flooding was also a risk in parts of Northern California that were devastated by the deadly Camp Fire late last year.

"Flash flooding is a dangerous and life-threatening situation," the Butte County Sheriff's Department said. "Due to the dynamic nature of debris flow and flash flood events, residents should not wait for an evacuation order to take action." The sheriff's office said search-and-rescue teams were dispatched three times Thursday for disabled cars on flooded roads.

In other parts of the country, a storm battered Illinois, western Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Indiana on Thursday with rain and light snow. It could bring light snow to Washington, D.C., Thursday evening, weather analysts said.

This “small and quick-moving” storm, meteorologists said, will most likely leave up to three inches of snow in New England and the interior parts of the Northeast, with other areas seeing just an inch.

On the heels of that storm is a second one that forecasters predict could dump three to six inches of snow in the central Plains and Midwest, and up to four inches in New York.

In the Midwest, Des Moines, Chicago and Omaha will begin to see heavy snowfall Friday evening and into Saturday, according to forecasters, who also warned of potential blizzard conditions for parts of Illinois, Ohio and Indiana.

Further south, Wichita, Kansas City and some other Midwestern cities will get slammed with a mix that could include sleet, snow and freezing rain. Icy conditions could impact travel, meteorologists said.

This second storm will also strike Eastern Seaboard cities such as New York, Boston and Washington, D.C., Forecasters said light snow will begin in the Northeast on Saturday night before turning into a mix of snow and freezing rain. This is expected to continue through Sunday.

A cross country skier passes the U.S. Capitol on the National Mall on the 23rd day of a government shutdown during a winter storm Jan. 13, 2019 in Washington.Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images

In addition to snow, this storm is expected to cause icy conditions. Forecasters said they are eyeing a possible ice storm in New York when temperatures drop from 40 degrees on Sunday to the single digits by Monday morning.

This rapid change in temperature paired with what's left on the ground from snowfall could lead to what meteorologists are calling a “flash freeze" hitting much of the Northeast and causing dangerous travel conditions.