Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Soggy California Braces for Deluge, as More Storms Take Aim

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Soggy California Braces for Deluge, as More Storms Take Aim

Article excerpt

More storms are steering toward California, which is already deluged. Warnings of flash floods and mudslides are in place in some communities, as worries rise about additional flooding.

At a corner Starbucks in Sherman Oaks, Calif., Milah Miller sips a latte and, on her laptop, googles the word "mudslide."

"I thought it was a big 'duh' that a vegetation-stripped hillside can't hold rain," says Ms. Miller, who owns a home in a nearby canyon that is now being pelted by record rains. But it could be even worse. "Now, I'm finding that last year's [wildfires] released a gas into the soil that weakens roots and forms a wax-like layer over the soil just beneath the surface. That's why rocks and trees and mud flow so fast it's hard to get out of the way."

How fast does mud flow? That's not exactly clear. Estimates from local news reports range from 35 to 64 miles per hour.

Miller, a travel agent, is happy to escape, at least for a few hours, the incessant TV team-coverage of the rare weather system now striking the state. Since Friday, downtown Los Angeles has received 3.75 inches of rain, one-fourth of the average yearly rainfall, says the National Weather Service. Local news and newspapers are filled with stories of people sandbagging their streets and backyards to guide rushing water and mud away from their homes, thanks to a weather phenomenon that hits the state about once a decade.

The storm is sweeping the entire state, flooding streets in the desert town of Bakersfield, dumping nine feet of snow on Mammoth Mountain, and clapping Cape Mendocino with thunder. About 2,000 people in the farm town of McFarland, in the Central Valley, were ordered evacuated because of flooding. But the situation is worst northeast of Los Angeles, in the areas of La Canada and Flintridge, which in October 2009 saw some parts of the San Gabriel Mountains denuded by the worst wildfires in local history. The National Weather Service (NWS) says all the precipitation is the result of a northern cold front moving south from Washington State and colliding with a mammoth bank of subtropical moisture that has been parked off the Pacific coast for several days. …

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