Southern Calif. Braces for Another Storm; Mudslides Feared

January 28, 2008

Winter storms continued to soak Southern California and meteorologists warned that wetter weather was on its way.

Up to 2 inches of rain fell overnight in valley and coastal areas and about double that in the mountains, National Weather Service specialist Stewart Seto said.

The rain appeared not to have triggered any major mudslides, but Seto said thunderstorms were likely later in the day, bringing a threat of torrential rain, tornadoes and an increased likelihood of slides in areas denuded by last year’s wildfires.

Officials from Los Angeles County and Orange County fire departments were on standby for flash floods and slides but said Sunday there was little damage to report.

Flash flood watches remained in effect through Sunday night for Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties.

The storm system also soaked parts of Northern California and the weather service posted winter storm warnings for parts of the Sierra Nevada.

A series of fierce storms has caused deadly avalanches, flooded streets and set off mud and rock slides in recent days. Some areas have received more moisture in a week than during the entire rainy season last year.

Three skiers were killed Friday by a trio of avalanches that swept through canyons outside the trails of Mountain High ski resort at Wrightwood, northeast of Los Angeles in the San Gabriel Mountains.

A fourth man escaped the avalanches. Snowboarder Oscar Gonzales Jr., 24, of Westminster, told the Riverside Press-Enterprise that he got lost when he left marked ski trails at the resort. “I made the wrong decision about going out of bounds,” he said. “I hit a rock.”

Gonzales said he was not hurt but walked at least 13 miles during the night to keep warm. He eventually found an old airplane fuselage and slept there until he was rescued Saturday by the crew of a sheriff’s helicopter.

Avalanches are unusual in the San Gabriel Mountains, but the peaks had been hit by 3 feet or more of new snow this past week, drawing thousands of skiers and snowboarders.

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