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updated: 2/27/2014 6:17 PM

California cities order evacuations ahead of storm

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  • Lorenzo Tatone, left, talks to an Azusa, Calif., police officer who is advising him of a mandatory evacuation of a street considered especially at risk as the city makes preparations for possible flooding Thursday. Tatone says he plans to stay but his daughter and grandchild are leaving. Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued for 1,000 homes in Glendora and Azusa, two foothill suburbs east of Los Angeles, in advance of a powerful storm.

      Lorenzo Tatone, left, talks to an Azusa, Calif., police officer who is advising him of a mandatory evacuation of a street considered especially at risk as the city makes preparations for possible flooding Thursday. Tatone says he plans to stay but his daughter and grandchild are leaving. Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued for 1,000 homes in Glendora and Azusa, two foothill suburbs east of Los Angeles, in advance of a powerful storm.
    ASSOCIATED PRESS

 
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- California got some badly needed precipitation Thursday from a fast-moving storm that forecasters said would be followed by heavier rains and snow and the possibility of flooding and mud flows into communities near areas scarred by wildfires.

Nevertheless, that's still pretty good news for California which has been in a severe drought. However, that same storm heads next for the Midwest and east Coast.

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The system will make its way across the U.S., possibly laying down snow from Kansas City to Boston this weekend, said Tom Kines, a meteorologist at AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pa.

"It's a good thing for California and then it stops being a good thing once it gets out of the Rockies," Kines said. "We're pretty confident that there is going to be a storm bringing a significant amount of precipitation. The big question for the big cities is how much will fall as snow."

Current forecasts for Chicago predict six or more inches of snow will fall over the weekend.

Despite sunny blue skies behind the first storm, mandatory evacuation orders were issued for about 1,000 homes in two of Los Angeles' eastern foothill suburbs beneath nearly 2,000 acres of steep mountain slopes left bare by a January fire.

For days, the cities of Glendora and Azusa have made extensive preparations. Residents built barriers of wood and sandbags to keep debris flows in streets and out of homes.

In Glendora, Dana Waldusky, 22, hurried to evacuate the family home, which backs up against the burned area. She, her parents and sister made sure they had important documents, photos, medicines and their toothbrushes packed.

"We have an hour to get evacuated," she said. "We're just boarding up all our doors.

"Last time, at the fire, we had 15 minutes, so this time we made sure we were prepared," she said.

The home survived the fire, which firefighters stopped 15 feet from their back fence.

"This time there's nothing you can do. You can't stop water," she said.

While concern was highest in the Glendora-Azusa area, meteorologists also posted flood watches for many other areas denuded by fires over the past two years. The National Weather Service warned of possible rainfall rates of 1 to 2 inches an hour as well as waterspouts offshore and small tornados when the next storm moves through the state Friday.

California's precipitation totals are far below normal and it will take a series of drenching storms to make a dent in a statewide drought that is among the worst in recent history.

The state Department of Water Resources took a new survey of the Sierra Nevada snowpack and found the water content at only 24 percent of average for the date. The northern and central Sierra snowpack normally provides about a third of the water used by California's cities and farms.

In Sacramento, meanwhile, state lawmakers overwhelmingly passed a $687 million plan to provide immediate relief to drought-stricken communities, a package that includes emergency money for communities running low on drinking water and farming communities where fallowed fields are leading to high unemployment. It will take effect immediately if signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, which is expected.

Back in Glendora, City Manager Chris Jeffers said he understood that no one wants to leave their home but the city had to take an important lesson from history.

The area was struck by mudslides in 1969 after a fire and about 30 homes were lost.

"Glendora was a citrus community at 20,000 people, with orchards up there," Jeffers said, compared to the now-urbanized city of 50,000.

"Now it's all homes and so we have a lot more homes in harm's way, which means more people in harm's way," he said.

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