Flooding hits Northern California area scarred by wildfire

Flooding hits Northern California area scarred by wildfire

Flash flooding has hit a wildfire-scarred area of Northern California, forcing officials to deploy swift water rescue teams to save people stuck in vehicles and rescue them from homes.

Authorities said they used boats to rescue people from three homes and told people in about 100 vehicles to stay in place until the rain receded.

Dale Word, a firmware engineer, was evacuated briefly on Thursday from his semi-rural Chico neighbourhood for the second time this month.

Word waded out in thigh-high water to higher ground until the rain receded, leaving a mess of sticky mud and debris. He said he was stunned by the disasters that have hit Butte County. The fire came within several hundred feet of his home.

“Everywhere you go you’re talking to people who have lost everything and it’s just tragic,” Mr Word said, jokingly adding, “It feels like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are going to come riding over the hill any day now.”

Mud and rock slides closed roads north-east of Los Angeles (Stan Lim/The Orange County Register via AP)
Mud and rock slides closed roads north-east of Los Angeles (Stan Lim/The Orange County Register via AP)

Thursday’s storm brought one-and-a-half inches of rain in an hour, toppling trees and trapping motorists in flooded roads downstream, said National Weather Service meteorologist Craig Shoemaker.

“This is heavy rain in a short period of time and that’s the worst thing that can happen in the burn scar,” he said.

The Butte County Sheriff’s Department ordered evacuations but could not say how many people were affected.

The water rescues were in an area of Chico, which is downhill from Paradise, and a city where many of the wildfire evacuees have been staying since the town of 27,000 was destroyed just three weeks ago by a deadly wildfire.

People from three homes in Word’s Chico neighbourhood were rescued by boat, said Rick Carhart, a spokesman with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said that at one point, people in about 100 vehicles were told to stay in place.

Emergency response crews earlier cleared a tree that toppled in the town of Magalia, but no other reports of damage had been received after an inch of rain fell overnight in the burn zone about 140 miles north-east of San Francisco.

Paradise has been under mandatory evacuation orders for nearly three weeks since a wildfire killed at least 88 people and destroyed nearly 14,000 homes.

Residents could begin returning early next week, but only if the storm does not hinder efforts to clear roads and restore power, said Mr Honea.

In Southern California, authorities ordered evacuations in a small Malibu community within a wildfire burn zone where a mudslide blocked roads amid heavy rains.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Joana Warren says residents of several homes were told to leave as streets filled with mud, ash and debris during a downpour. She said no injuries were reported.

Heavy rain and storms moved through Orange County and Southern California (Mark Rightmire/The Orange County Register via AP)
Heavy rain and storms moved through Orange County and Southern California (Mark Rightmire/The Orange County Register via AP)

In the zone that burned this month, the city of Malibu warned of rocks falling on canyon roads and Pepperdine University closed its campus.

The storm knocked out power and flooded roadways across greater Los Angeles.

Numerous traffic accidents occurred and most vehicles travelling in the mountains were ordered to put chains on their tires. Mud and rock slides also closed two mountain highways.

Residents were urged to voluntarily evacuate a string of neighbourhoods about 45 miles south-east of Los Angeles along a flank of the Santa Ana Mountains where a fire burned thousands of acres last summer.

Mandatory evacuations were ordered for a small section of the city of Lake Elsinore beneath a burn zone.

West of Los Angeles, rain fell heavily at times in vast areas burned by fires this month and last December — an area where there are strong memories of a January downpour that unleashed devastating debris flows through the community of Montecito that killed 21 people and left two missing.

- Press Association

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