LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE, Calif. (AP) – Authorities told thousands of evacuees Friday that they soon would be allowed to return to their foothill homes as Southern California’s fourth storm of the week dissipated into occasional thunderstorms.
As rainfall drenched the region earlier in the week, the homes had faced possible debris flows from mountains burned bare last summer by wildfire.
But with the weather clearing, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Chief Neil Tyler said notices of which neighborhoods would be released were being posted Friday on a county Web site starting at midmorning.
Tyler warned, however, that lines of thunderstorms continued to pose threats, so some areas would remain under evacuation orders.
Nearly 2,000 homes had been ordered evacuated during the week, according to county Supervisor Mike Antonovich. That marked an increase from earlier estimates of about 1,200.
No major mudslides or debris flows were reported, but Antonovich said some homes have been damaged.
A week of rain saturated areas burned bare by last year’s 250-square-mile wildfire in the steep San Gabriel Mountains, putting homes at risk in a string of foothill communities northeast of Los Angeles as flood-control debris basins neared capacity.
Not everyone complied with the orders.
In La Canada Flintridge, resident Dave McLaughlin admitted Friday he had been nervous about ignoring evacuation orders but said he’d been asked to evacuate previously and nothing had happened.
“We can see the debris basin from our backyard,” he said.
The National Weather Service warned of scattered showers and thunderstorms through Friday evening that could drop up to an inch of rain an hour at times.
There also could be an additional 4 to 8 inches of snow in the mountains.
In communities below burn areas, only minor slides were reported but flash flood watches remained in effect.
Snow coated the mountains above the foothill neighborhoods Friday morning. To the east, snow also blanketed the city of Yucaipa below the San Bernardino Mountains.
A week of storms has brought 8 to 10 inches of rain to the Los Angeles-area mountains, while lower-lying areas got about half that, weather service meteorologist Eric Boldt said.
Most Southern California areas will see about a half-inch of rain Friday but areas hit by brief but fierce thunderstorms could get 1 to 2 inches, Boldt said.
Authorities said an extensive flood-control system was working, but many of the basins designed to catch debris-laden runoff from fire-scarred mountains were full as the region entered a fifth straight day of rain.
The weather was expected to dry out over the weekend before yet another storm front moved in.
Justin Ross whooped and hollered while he dug his shovel furiously into the 3-foot deep mud that was quickly rising beside his parents’ house Thursday in the La Canada Flintridge foothills north of downtown Los Angeles.
Ross, 23, stopped only to dip his fingers in the muck and wiped a streak across each cheek, as water the color of chocolate milk poured down the steep slope.
“I put on the war paint and started screaming a sort of war whoop. It was a combination of exhaustion and exhilaration,” he said during a break between squalls Thursday afternoon. “I feel like I’ve been shoveling for four days straight because I have.”
Neighboring Arizona also was pounded with rain and snow that prompted a search for a boy who was swept away by rising waters, flooded an unknown number of homes in another community and left several hikers stranded.
A search was under way early Friday for the 6-year-old boy who was swept about 70 miles north of Phoenix near the community of Mayer. Dwight D’Evelyn, a spokesman for the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Department, said the boy was presumed dead.
In western Arizona, a 2-foot surge of runoff flooded streets and an unknown number of homes early Friday in Wenden, a community of 500 people located about 100 miles west of Phoenix. No one was reported missing or injured.
In California, the siege of Pacific storms has led to several deaths statewide, flooded urban areas and turned the region’s often-dry river and creek channels into raging torrents.
A young man was pulled from a rushing river in Orange County on Thursday, but rescuers couldn’t confirm his report that a companion got swept away.
Travel snarls mounted Thursday as major highways were closed by snow and tornado damage, and strong winds grounded flights at several airports. Another tornado left a trail of damage in a community northwest of Los Angeles. The highways were reopened by Friday morning.
A motorist was rescued after a tornado knocked power lines onto a highway in the state’s remote southeast corner, trapping the man inside his vehicle.
A small tornado struck two neighborhoods in Ventura, toppling trees, damaging cars and tearing apart a shed.
Acting Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Francisco and Siskiyou counties because of the statewide storm impacts.
The basins are located on streams and other water courses emerging from the mountains to intercept surges of mud, boulders and other debris while allowing water to flow into open channels and underground storm drains that empty into the ocean.
Associated Press writer John Rogers contributed to this report.