Powerful Storm Prompts Evacuations in California

A heavy rainstorm that pounded Southern California's wildfire-scarred foothills with heavy rain moved on without causing major damage Monday, but not before prompting evacuations, cutting power to thousands and forcing even Disneyland to close several hours early.

Skies were expected to clear Tuesday, giving Californians a brief respite before the next of three back-to-back storms was expected to sweep into the region later in the day.

Rainfall totals ranged from 1 to 3 inches along the coast and in the valleys, and from 3 to 6 inches in the mountain areas, said Bill Hoffer, spokesman for the National Weather Service in Oxnard. Forecasters said storms lasting through Friday could drop a total of 20 inches of rain on Southern California.

Rainfall rates hit nearly an inch per hour in portions of the recent burn areas in Los Angeles County and 1.2 inches per hour in part of the burn areas in Santa Barbara County, said Dave Gomberg, a weather service meteorologist.

The storm also broke a 1993 rainfall record at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, where 1.55 inches of rain were recorded.

Authorities ordered nearly 200 homes evacuated or put on alert in foothill communities just below areas devastated by the massive Station wildfire, which charred more than 250 square miles of the Angeles National Forest in August.

Another 300 homes were isolated in a remote canyon neighborhood in Altadena after debris being carried downstream stacked up against a small bridge and caused flooding on an access road. Los Angeles County fire Capt. Steve Scheidemantle said the community's estimated 800 residents had power and water and there appeared to be no imminent need for an evacuation.

More than 20,000 customers in Southern California were without power for part of the day as flooding and high winds toppled power lines or sent drivers careening into electric poles.

In Northern California, a plane arriving from Dallas made an emergency landing at San Jose International Airport because of the storm, and a 21-year-old Kern County man was killed when a tree toppled on his house.

In Orange County, the downpour forced Disneyland to close its gates three hours early and caused a roof to collapse on employees at a medical lab in Santa Ana. No one was injured.

In San Bernardino County, authorities in Victorville rescued four teenagers who became trapped by a 6-foot wall of rising water in a storm drain. One of the teens called police to say the group was hanging from a ladder leading to a manhole cover, but didn't know their exact location, police spokeswomen Karen Hunt said in a statement.

The teens — ages 19, 17, 16 and 15 — were rescued after a San Bernardino County sheriff who was looking for them heard their cries for help. Hunt did not know why the teens were in the drain, but said it was commonly used as a shortcut to a park.

Authorities who spent the day managing evacuations and responding to accidents on rain-slickened roads braced for the next two storms.

"Thus far, LA appears to be doing well, but the passing of this storm simply closes one chapter in a never-ending story," said Brian Humphrey, spokesman for the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Tuesday's storm was expected to be similar, with rainfall totals of 1 to 3 inches along the coast and valleys and up to 6 inches in the mountains. The next system will be colder and could drop snow coverage from mountain peaks to elevations 5,000 feet off the ground, said Hoffer, the NWS spokesman.

High surf advisories were also in effect into Tuesday, with wave heights of 15 to 18 feet reported along the Central Coast from Point Conception north to Cape San Martin.

The weather could clear up by Sunday, but another Pacific storm could be in the offing for early next week, Hoffer said.