MALIBU, Calif. – Residents in three California foothill communities headed home Sunday after a powerful storm that threatened to unleash mud on neighborhoods beneath unstable hills scarred by recent wildfires.
With the storm reduced to sprinkles, residents in the Los Angeles County cities of Glendora and Azusa were allowed back into their homes. Monrovia residents were allowed back late Saturday, officials said.
The storm — the largest since 2010 — kept emergency planners and rescue crews busy, but it didn't produce enough rain to pull California out of a crippling drought that has grown to crisis proportions for the state's vast farming industry.
The precipitation will bring the Los Angeles region to about half its normal rainfall for the season, Bill Patzert, a climatologist for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, told the Los Angeles Times.
"This is no drought-buster, but it's a nice, fat down payment" in the water bank, he said.
In downtown Los Angeles, the skies cleared in time for the red-carpet arrivals at the Academy Awards, but rescue teams and cleanup crews were still busy.
A swift water-rescue team plucked four hikers from rising waters in a risky overnight rescue Sunday in Malibu.
The hikers, who were trapped between a high wall and the rising waters in Malibu Creek State Park, were whisked out by helicopter uninjured but cold and exhausted.
In San Diego County, search and rescue teams discovered the body of a 55-year-old man whose kayak was found upside down Saturday at Lake Sutherland Dam in Ramona.
The man, whose name has not been released, was found dead about 10 a.m. Sunday, sheriff's Lt. Jason Vickery said.
High surf breached a sand berm in Long Beach late Saturday during an unusually high tide, said Will Nash, a spokesman for the Long Beach Fire Department.
The water caused minor damage in the parking garages and lower levels of about 20 homes there, he said.
As of Saturday evening, the storm had dropped more than 3 inches of rain in downtown Los Angeles, nearly 4.5 inches in Van Nuys and almost 12 inches at Cogswell Dam in the Angeles National Forest, according to the National Weather Service.
The storm wasn't all bad news, though.
Ski resorts were delighted with fresh snow that promised to extend their season, and in Northern California, the rain boosted a local creek where endangered coho salmon spawn. Rainfall over the last month has helped facilitate the salmon's return to their spawning grounds, said the local water district officials who track their numbers.
"Coho season is wrapping up, and thankfully it's ending with more of a bang than a whimper," Eric Ettlinger, aquatic ecologist with the Marin Municipal Water District told The Marin Independent Journal.