LOS ANGELES (AP) — Homes were swept from their foundations and residents were unaccounted for while others were rescued as mud and debris from wildfire-scarred hillsides flowed through neighborhoods and onto a key Southern California highway during a powerful winter storm that dropped record rain across the state.
Helicopters were being used even during the downpours because roads were blocked, Santa Barbara County spokeswoman Amber Anderson said.
“The primary issue right now is access. We’ve got trees and power lines down,” she said.
There were reports of injuries, but Anderson didn’t immediately know how many or the extent. She said “multiple” residents had been brought to safety and dozens more were calling for help in Montecito and Carpinteria. Some of those rescued were buried in mud, officials said. Thousands were without power.
Crews worked to clear debris from roads across greater Los Angeles, including a key stretch of U.S. 101 that was shut down along the border of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
Evacuation orders were issued Monday as forecasters predicted mudslides in foothill neighborhoods where the state’s largest-ever fire raged last month.
The first significant storm of the season walloped much of the state with damaging winds and thunderstorms. Record-breaking rain fell on the San Francisco Bay region before the system largely passed overnight, leaving diminishing showers there before dawn Tuesday. Stormy weather continued to the east in the Central Valley and Sierra Nevada.
Downtown San Francisco had a record 3.15 inches of rain, smashing the old mark of 2.36 inches set in 1872 and making it the city’s 16th wettest day since 1849, the National Weather Service said.
To the south, a staggering 9.6 inches of rain fell on Mining Ridge on the Big Sur coast. Highway 1, still not recovered from last winter’s damaging rains, suffered new blockages.
Forecasters issued flash flood warnings and predicted that the cold front with powerful winds could bring higher rain totals to downtown Los Angeles than recorded over the past 10 months. Mandatory evacuations were ordered for about 700 homes in former burn areas of Los Angeles County.
A winter weather advisory was in place for mountain areas, where officials warned motorists to prepare for difficult travel conditions, including gusty winds, low visibility and snow-covered roads
A yearslong drought eased in the state last spring, but Northern California had a dry start to winter and hardly any measurable rain fell in the south over the past six months. The extremely dry conditions and high winds last year led to some of the most destructive blazes on both ends of the state.
Associated Press writers Andrew Dalton and John Antczak in Los Angeles, Olga R. Rodriguez in San Francisco, and Eric Risberg in Santa Rosa contributed to this report.