LOS ANGELES (AP) - A storm walloped parts of Southern California with up to seven inches of rain and spawned minor flooding and mudslides, but forecasters warn the bad weather's real impact may be yet to come.
More than three additional inches of rain expected across the region by Wednesday will hit already saturated hillsides, increasing the possibility of mudslides and flash floods, said Stuart Seto of the National Weather Service.
The relentless rains that pounded southern California through the weekend also caused numerous traffic accidents, downed trees and forced the cancellation of several horse races.
The weather service said rainfall accumulation could reach 20 inches in some isolated locations by Wednesday, when the first phase of the storm is expected to pass. After a brief respite, it is forecast to return late Christmas Day.
The system hit the state after a large storm front moving out of the Gulf of Alaska met with subtropical, moist air coming across the Pacific Ocean.
In Kern County, officials declared an emergency after a second day of intense rains, a move that provides responders with faster access to country resources. The Bakersfield Californian reported that the rains left many neighborhoods around the county dealing with high water. Some roads were closed and some homeowners stacked sandbags in hopes of staying dry.
The Los Angeles area, including downtown, Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley, received 3-4 inches of rainfall, while some northern mountain areas were hit with more than 7 inches.
The Santa Maria River briefly overran its banks Sunday and caused flooding in Guadelupe in Santa Barbara County, forcing an underdetermined number of people to leave their homes, fire officials said. The Santa Maria Times reported that the high waters began receding in the evening.
A flash-flood warning was in effect for some areas, particularly mountain areas still scarred by recent wildfires, while flood warnings or flood advisories were issued for most of the region.
Residents of La Canada Flintridge were among those keeping a wary eye on the rain. More than 40 homes in the hillside city just north of Los Angeles were damaged or destroyed by a mudslide in February.
"We are holding up," said resident Lien Yang, who added he was warned to be prepared to evacuate. "It's coming down steady but not pouring. Therefore it doesn't cause a mud flow or flooding or anything like that. Hopefully, it's winding down and we'll have no threat this time."
One of his neighbors, Tom Smith, spent part of Sunday afternoon placing sandbags in front of his house.
The rain triggered more than 60 accidents throughout the Los Angeles area, the California Highway Patrol reported.
Many were fender-benders but in the city of Industry, east of Los Angeles, a car carrying four members of a family hit a tree. A 6-year-old girl was hospitalized in critical condition and her father, mother and 15-month-old sister suffered lesser injuries, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
The rain even made it risky for racehorses to run. Hollywood Park canceled its final seven races Sunday after rain made a section of turf leading to the main track too dangerous to navigate.
The storm uprooted numerous trees. In Woodland Hills, north of Los Angeles, a eucalyptus tree crashed onto the roof of a home, while a 40-foot tree fell onto an apartment building in Glendale. In West Hills, a downed tree crushed a car. No injuries were reported.
Soaked hillsides gave way to some minor mudslides in canyon areas and flooding in a few low-lying streets, but nothing serious, Seto said.
In Los Angeles, residents of a Bel Air Estates home had to be evacuated when a retaining wall collapsed and mud surged into the house, fire department spokesman Erik Scott said.
The Snooper Report.
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