Record-breaking rain has poured in California, causing thousands to evacuate as debris-flows and mudslides take over the region.
The downpour follows a series of wildfires and landslides in California that have devastated the Montecito and Santa Barbara areas.
The Pacific storm – caused by an ‘atmospheric river’ also known as a ‘pineapple express’ – is expected to last through Thursday in California and has already brought with it tremendous amounts of rain.
Montecito Creek (above) flows alongside debris left over from January’s mudslides, after a downpour Wednesday March 21
Crews clear roads such as Santa Rosa Creek Road (above) after the Pacific Storm that raged Wednesday led to rock slides and heavy rain
A Sun Valley resident places sandbags along his driveway during the deluge on Wednesday that caused thousands to evacuate their homes due to debris flows and mudslide threats
A satellite image from Wednesday reveal the strength of the Pacific Storm nicknamed the ‘Pineapple Express’
Sandbags were played on the washed-out driveway on La Tuna Canyon Road in Sun Valley, California on Wednesday, March 21, 2018 during the storm
The torrential conditions are caused by an atmospheric river that is nicknamed the ‘pineapple express’ for the water vapor it carries from the tropics and holds in a long and narrow strip in the atmosphere, before it falls as rain or snow.
The deluge left five inches of rain in northern San Luis Obispo County and 2.7inches in Santa Clarita, just north of Los Angeles, and a record-breaking 2.6inches in Santa Barbara.
In Oxnard nearly 1.8inches fell Wednesday evening, breaking the 1937 record of 1.3inches.
Eight inches were also reported in one area according to The Mercury News.
The storm affected the coast region from Los Angeles to San Francisco Bay.
Mud and rockslides were also reported in several regions, including Highway 1 at Ragged Point near Big Sur, not far from the site of a massive landslide last year.
Authorities kept a close watch on Santa Barbara County, hoping there would not be a repeat of the massive January debris flows from a burn scar that ravaged the community of Montecito and killed 21 people.
‘Right now it looks like the storm will enter its most threatening period Thursday morning,’ the National Weather Service said, predicting a potential nine-hour period of rain.
Some locals evacuated their homes preemptively.
Carolyn Potter, 59, evacuated from her home in Casitas Springs in Ventura County on Tuesday, but returned the same day when no rain materialized in her neighborhood.
‘I thought, “This is silly. I’m going to go home and get something done,”‘ she said.
Potter evacuated again when she woke up to rain Wednesday morning and plans to sleep in her car in a grocery store parking lot to avoid hotel costs and the bustle of an evacuation shelter.
Meanwhile her husband Alan is staying home, just like he has the other three times Potter has evacuated because of fires or storms since September.
‘If something happens maybe I’ll zip on down and dig him out,’ Potter said.
The storm is expected to last through Thursday.
‘There was concern about the combination of rainfall rates and the long duration, Santa Barbara County spokeswoman Suzanne Grimmesey said.
With the grim Montecito experience in recent memory, Santa Barbara County ordered evacuation of areas along its south coast near areas burned by several wildfires dating back to 2016.
Rain pounded down in Los Angeles as pedestrians huddled under umbrellas to escape the downpour on Wednesday
Areas in Los Angeles saw over two inches of rain affect their neighborhoods in the storm
Janet waits for her bus under the cover of a new umbrella at a bus stop in Adelanto, California in the wake of the unexpected deluge
‘We actually do feel good about the evacuation order/ Law enforcement was out in the extreme risk areas of Montecito yesterday knocking on doors. For those that were home, we had a very good cooperation rate with people leaving,’ Grimmesey said.
When sheriff’s deputies told Kristine Sperling and her family they should evacuate their home because of the approaching storm in January, they didn’t listen.
Sperling thought she, her husband and their daughter, 11, would be safe.
Then the storm unleashed flash floods laden with giant boulders that blasted through town in the middle of the night, destroying or damaging hundreds of homes. One of their dear friends was among those killed.
This time around, they listened to the evacuation order.
‘It’s a matter of life and death,’ Sperling said from Santa Barbara, where her family was staying with friends after evacuating Tuesday.
Evacuation orders and advisories have been given repeatedly in the Santa Barbara and Ventura counties since December after a furious fire grew to record-breaking size and singed more than 1,000 buildings.
Montecito resident Garrick Hyder evacuated for the December wildfire but not ahead of the January mudslides, which destroyed items in his garage including a motorcycle and thousands of dollars’ worth of snowboarding and scuba-diving equipment.
Hyder watched as rescuers retrieved numerous bodies over several days from in front of his house.
Hyder evacuated four days after the mudslides and then again when another storm threatened the area a week ago.
‘I’m on No. 4 now. It’s pretty crazy. It’s kind of the price of living in paradise,’ Hyder said Tuesday as he packed his car.
In Los Angeles County, authorities canceled some planned mandatory evacuations because of a projected decrease in rainfall but kept others in place because of debris flows in one canyon area stripped bare by wildfire.