Southern Californians brace for winter storm made worse by recent wildfires

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LOS ANGELES (NewsNation Now) — A late January storm is expected to cause flooding, mudslides and road closures across Southern California.

Three to five inches of rain could fall heading into Friday morning.

Up on the mountains, the forecast is calling for at least three feet of snow.

The weather is being fueled by an “atmospheric river storm,” pumping drenching rains into the heart of California on Thursday as blizzard conditions buried the Sierra Nevada in snow.

There is a lot of concern in a lot of areas in the wake of a record fire season.

Ahead of the rain and snow, there was sandbagging and road closures on Thursday.

Many communities near recent burn areas are on alert, including Arcadia, Sierra Madre and Monrovia.

Residents are advised to have a plan and be ready to evacuate.

“They do expect some mud flow, they don’t expect severe mud flow but we’re preparing for worst,” said Brian Patrick with Monrovia Fire & Rescue.

Officials said the heavy rainfall could cause flash flooding, mud slides and debris flows, especially in the many areas near recent wildfires.

North of Los Angeles, dangerous conditions have meant intermittent closures of Interstate 5 in the Grapevine area.

Farther north, an early band of the storm toppled big rigs on Highway 99 in Sacramento County.

There were also close calls for a number of families as the storm sent large trees crashing into homes.

“I am so grateful. I mean it clipped the roof and that’s where our little girl’s bedroom is on that side,” said Sacramento resident Shannon McNerny.

Eric Rose picks up debris from a tree that crashed through his neighbor’s house and landed in his backyard during a storm in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, Jan. 27 2021. High-winds and rain pelted the region causing damage throughout the area. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Along the central coast, a significant mudslide damaged about two dozen structures in Salinas, which is near the burn scar of the River Fire in August.

A woman was treated for broken bones after mud swept right through her home.

Hana Mohsin, right, carries belongings from a neighbor’s home which was damaged in a mudslide on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021, in Salinas, Calif. The area, located beneath the River Fire burn scar, is susceptible to landslides as heavy rains hit hillsides scorched during last year’s wildfires. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Evacuation orders eased up in the Santa Cruz mountains on Thursday, where some had ignored them anyway.

“You live here, you get used to it. You’re living in a forest, a tree falls, the road gets blocked, power goes out, I mean that’s the way it goes” said Boulder Creek resident William Masterson.

Near Lake Tahoe, good Samaritans sprang into action to help get a stuck truck out of the snow.

“It happens pretty often but with this big storm, we haven’t had one like this in like two years so it’s really something different for a lot of people,” said Nick Alvarez.

Firefighters northwest of Lake Tahoe rescued a 14-year-old boy who was buried under five feet of snow that slid off the roof of his home Wednesday night. He wasn’t seriously injured. The Truckee Fire Protection District said the teen was playing in a snow cave in the Serene Lakes area west of Truckee at the time.

Atmospheric rivers are long and narrow bands of water vapor that form over an ocean and flow through the sky. They occur globally but are especially significant on the West Coast of the United States, where they create 30% to 50% of annual precipitation and are linked to water supply and problems such as flooding and mudslides, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

NewsNation affiliates KTLA, KRON, KTXL and The Associated Press contributed to this report.