By Justin Pritchard
LOS ANGELES: California was lashed Friday by heavy rains that the parched state so desperately needs, though with the soaking came familiar problems: traffic snarls, power outages and the threat of mudslides.
Even with rainfall totals exceeding 6 inches in some places by midday, the powerful Pacific storm did not put a major dent in a drought that is among the worst in recent California history.
The first waves of the storm drenched foothill communities east of Los Angeles that just weeks ago were menaced by a wildfire — and now faced potential mudslides. Mandatory evacuation orders were issued for about 1,200 homes in the area. Small debris flows covered one street in Glendora, but no property damage occurred, police said.
Forecasters expected the storm to last through Saturday in California before trundling east into similarly rain-starved neighboring states. Phoenix was expecting its first noticeable precipitation in two months. The storm was projected to head east across the Rockies before petering out in the Northeast in several days.
The threat of mudslides will last at least through tonight. Tornadoes and water spouts were possible.
Rainfall totals in parts of California were impressive, especially in areas that typically don’t receive much, but not nearly enough to offer long-term relief from a long-running drought.
Downtown Los Angeles received 2 inches before a midday reprieve, but remained about 12 inches below normal rainfall for the season.
“We need several large storms and we just don’t see that on the horizon. This is a rogue storm,” National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Boldt said. “We will dry out next week.”
But for this rain, the service said, this would have been the driest December through February on record in Los Angeles.
Rain also fell in the central coast counties, the San Francisco Bay region and the Central Valley. Winter storm warnings were in effect in the Sierra Nevada.
About 15 inches of new snow had fallen by mid-day Friday at UC Berkeley’s Central Sierra Snow Lab located near the Sierra summit at 6,900 feet above sea level.
“All these [storm] events move us a little higher up, but we’re still well below average,” said researcher Randall Osterhuber. Earlier in the week, the state Department of Water Resources found that the Sierra snowpack had water content at only 24 percent of average for the date.