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California storm forces flood rescues but spares Montecito
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — A powerful storm dropped more rain across California on Thursday, swelling rivers, flooding streets and causing some mudslides but so far sparing communities a repeat of the disastrous debris flows that followed a deluge earlier this year.
Authorities lifted evacuation orders for some 30,000 people in disaster-weary Santa Barbara County, which includes Montecito, where mudslides killed 21 people and inundated hundreds of homes in January. People returned home as the storm unleashed flooding that led to some dramatic rescues in other parts of the state.
Some 80 miles (129 kilometers) east of Santa Barbara, a car turned upside-down in rushing water on a neighborhood road, according to video posted by the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Department. Passers-by helped rescue the people inside the car, who weren’t hurt, the department said.
In another dramatic video , a man whose car was stuck in floodwaters 330 miles (530 kilometers) to the north in Folsom stood halfway outside his sunroof as rescuers in a boat throw him a life vest. The man puts the vest on, throws rescuers a bag and then jumps from the roof of the car into the boat.
Some 100 miles (160 kilometers) southeast of Folsom, the Tuolumne County sheriff’s department tweeted that neighbors helped rescue a couple stranded atop a chicken coop after their home and cars were flooded.
Emergency shelters were being set up for displaced residents, the department said, but didn’t immediately respond to a question about how many people that involved.
Residents in Montecito began breathing a sigh of relief as the storm faded away in their area without any major problems.
“We dodged a bullet when this storm did not reach its full potential and actually veered off to the north and south of us,” Sheriff Bill Brown said at a news conference.
No debris flows had occurred, creeks were flowing well and debris catch-basins were working, he said.
In fact, authorities began praising the storm for dropping a good dose of much-need water in the area, where drought conditions have recently gone back to extreme or severe levels.
“This has been a fairly beneficial rain,” National Weather Service meteorologist Mark Jackson said. “We’re still in a drought so this is a good rain and we could use more of the good rain.”
Thousands of people fled Montecito and neighboring communities in advance of the storm, just as they had during previous rains and last year during a wildfire that became the largest in state history as it destroyed more than 1,000 buildings, mostly homes.
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 wildfires.
A large chunk of a hillside fell away in a Los Angeles canyon that burned last year, but no one was hurt.
The storm also toppled a pine tree across one neighborhood street and a eucalyptus tree into a home in another neighborhood. No one was injured.
The storm came ashore earlier in the week as a so-called atmospheric river, a long plume of Pacific moisture that is also known as a “Pineapple Express” because of its origins near Hawaii.
Forecasters said the plume was finally shifting to the east but there would be a chance of thunderstorms through Thursday evening as a cold front moved down from the Central Coast, so the “concern for significant flash flooding and debris flows has lessened but not gone away completely.”