Heaviest Storm of the Season to Hit Fire-Scarred Southern California

(TNS) — The strongest and potentially wettest storm of the winter season is bearing down on Southern California this week, threatening to unleash debris flows in burn areas in Orange and Riverside counties as the region’s wild winter continues.

The atmospheric river-fueled storm, packed with subtropical moisture, will take aim at large swaths of the already-soaked state beginning early Wednesday and lasting through Thursday.

More Evacuations Ordered in Burn Areas as Record Rain Soaks Southern California

(TNS) - A storm over Southern California dumped rain and snow on the area Monday, heightening the threat of mud and debris flows in areas scarred by recent wildfires, prompting evacuation orders, and closing a stretch of Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu and the Grapevine section of the 5 Freeway.

The National Weather Service issued a flood advisory for western Los Angeles County and Ventura County, warning that roads, streams and highways could pool with rain as showers are expected through the week.

As rain pelted the state Monday, setting new rainfall records in Burbank and Sandberg, a town near the Grapevine, officials began to close roads that were too dangerous for traffic.

California Mudslide Victims ID’d as Crews Continue Survivor Search

The oldest victim swept away in a California mudslide was Jim Mitchell, who had celebrated his 89th birthday the day before. He died with his wife of more than 50 years, Alice.

The youngest, 3-year-old Kailly Benitez, was one of four children killed.

As their names and those of 14 other victims were released Thursday, crews kept digging through the muck and rubble looking for more people.

The number of reported deaths from the mudslide has reached 17.

“At this moment, we are still looking for live victims,” Santa Barbara fire Capt. Gary Pitney said. But he confessed: “The likelihood is increasing that we’ll be finding bodies, not survivors. You have to start accepting the reality of that.”

Mapping the Post-Wildfire Landslide Risk in California’s Burn Zones

California’s rainy season last year may have replenished reservoirs in most parts of the state after a long, crippling drought, but the precipitation largely bypassed an area northwest of Los Angeles, in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. Santa Barbara is now in its seventh year of drought and there are worries that similar conditions will return elsewhere in the Golden State.

Under these difficult circumstances, incoming rain—like the heavy precipitation that’s expected this week in parts of Southern California—would be welcomed as good news. But that’s not necessarily the case in the areas impacted by recent wildfires, including Thomas Fire in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, where upwards of 4 inches of rains is predicted through Tuesday evening in some spots.

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