The second in a string of powerful storms battered California on Saturday, shutting key highways after water and mud rushed into lanes from bare hillsides in wildfire burn areas where thousands of residents were under evacuation orders.
Flash flood warnings were issued for huge swaths of Southern California and forecasters said the system brought more than 4 inches of rain at lower elevations and several feet of snow in the mountains, where whiteout conditions closed roads.
A wind gust in Santa Barbara County topped 80 mph as the storm moved south and at one point dropped more than a half-inch of rain in five minutes. Trees and power lines were down across the region.
In Malibu, where the Woolsey fire last year destroyed homes and burned hillsides bare, officials closed Pacific Coast Highway and many other roadways after mud carried trees and rocks into lanes. Residents whose homes survived the flames barricaded their properties with sandbags to protect their properties from floodwaters.
Carol Cavella was evacuated during the November fire and again Saturday when the creek behind her house threatened to overflow and inundate her backyard.
A minivan carrying a family was traveling too fast for the wet conditions, lost control and plowed into members of the team, Los Angeles County fire Capt. Tony Imbrenda said. Nine people were transported to hospitals, including three members of the team. The victim, Jeff Dye, was a volunteer with the Fillmore Mountain Search and Rescue Team, the sheriff’s department said.
“This is a very unfortunate situation that could’ve been avoided,” Imbrenda said, warning motorists to slow down in the rain.
In the Holy Jim fire area southeast of Los Angeles, where an August blaze scoured tens of thousands of acres in the Cleveland National Forest, volunteers using heavy equipment removed debris and deepened a creek bed to help prevent flooding.
The National Park Service warned visitors to Yosemite National Park of possible road closures and advised drivers to bring tire chains in the event of snow or icy conditions.
The weather service lifted flash-flood watches for areas burned by the Mendocino Complex, Camp and Carr wildfires in Northern California. About an inch of rain was recorded in the San Francisco Bay Area before the storm moved south early Saturday.
A weaker storm soaked much of the state on Thursday Two cold weather systems will follow on Sunday and Monday, bringing additional widespread showers and snow, forecasters said.