Dec 14, 2009 12:27 PM by Associated Press
Heavy rain tapered off, skies cleared and residents of the Los Angeles area foothills started returning home Sunday, a day after they fled because of fears that heavy rains would cause mudslides.
Public works and fire department officials drove through the wildfire-scarred neighborhoods early Sunday and determined that it was safe for the residents of the 44 evacuated homes to return, said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Deputy Lillian Peck.
Fifteen patrol vehicles continued to make rounds in burn areas Sunday, scanning the hillsides for potential mudslides, said the Los Angeles Fire Department's Brian Humphrey.
Foothill areas below the burned sections of the Angeles National Forest had been barricaded with sandbags and concrete barriers. Ground in recently burned areas has little ability to absorb rain, and the instant runoff during heavy rains can carry with it ash, mud, boulders and vegetation.
Mudslides and debris closed parts of a 12-mile stretch of the Angeles Crest Highway just north of Los Angeles, leaving 90 vehicles stranded for a time. No injuries were reported. The road remained closed Sunday.
Forecasters said some rain was lingering Sunday along the Central Coast but most of the state would see dry weather through midweek.
Rainfall totals in the wildfire burn areas were less than meteorologists had feared. Just under 4 inches fell above Arcadia in a 24 hour period ending Sunday and Mount Wilson got about 4.65 inches, according to unofficial National Weather Service reports.
About 16,000 utility customers throughout Southern California were sporadically without electricity, mostly because of downed branches crashing onto power lines.
While problems in the lowlands eased, heavy snow in California's mountains made driving difficult.
Snows between 8 and 16 inches fell above 6,000 feet in the Southern California mountains. Winds blew at 25 to 35 mph.
George Cline, a National Weather Service forecaster in Sacramento, expected the storm to bring an inch of rain to the Central Valley, with wind gusts up to 60 mph. Gusts up to 90 mph were expected on mountain ridges.
The National Weather Service said another storm system will bring more heavy rain to Northern California late Tuesday and early Wednesday.
The new snow in the mountains is expected to give an early jump to building the snowpack, which is key to the region's water supply. But forecasters say the snow would also bring avalanche danger to the backcountry.