A winter storm moving toward Southern California Wednesday is expected to bring rain and snow to the area through Friday, prompting concerns about flooding and mudslides on burn-scarred hillsides.
The bulk of the moisture from the system isn’t expected to arrive until Thursday, though snowy conditions at higher elevations prompted officials to temporarily close the 5 Freeway through The Grapevine area early Wednesday morning.
The interstate was shut down for several hours before both sides were reopened shortly after 2:30 p.m., except for the left lane on the northbound of side, according to Caltrans.
Heavy downpours will bring an elevated risk of mud and debris flows to the area’s recent burn areas, according to forecasters.
Due to the potential for flash flooding in the Bobcat, Lake and Ranch2 fire burn areas, officials are also urging motorists not to drive through the Angeles National Forest in the coming days. A flash flood watch is expected to be in place there from 4p.m. Thursday through 4 a.m. Friday.
“If you live near these burn areas, now is the time to prepare for possible evacuation,” the National Weather Service tweeted.
On Wednesday afternoon, an evacuations warning was issued for the El Dorado Fire burn area. The warning impacts northeast Yucaipa, Mountain Home Village and Oak Glen, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.
Officials urged people who live in those areas to prepare in the event an evacuation order is issued.
The Red Cross is available at 571-595-7771, and residents can bring their large animals to the Devore Animal Shelter, located at 19777 Shelter Way, according to the Sheriff’s Department.
The county noted other communities were at also risk for flooding, including Forest Falls and Angelus Oaks.
Officials stressed that people living in recent burn areas can’t let their guard down.
“What’s happening right now, it’s very deceptive the weather we’re having [Wednesday] — kind of seems like an OK, decent day. In less than 24 hours we’re expecting in, somewhere between 2 and 5 inches of rain,” said L.A. County Fire Department Inspector Henry Narvaez. “Our concern is in these recently burned areas over the last few months, we’ve had some pretty big fires that have that have got rid of the lot of greenery that we need their on their hillside to hold it up.”
Of particular concern is that the soil in recent burn zones has no vegetation to cling to, which could be potentially devastating in the event of fast-moving rain.
While most of Wednesday’s showers will remain north of Los Angeles County, heavy rain is expected to arrive by Thursday.
In general, 1.5 to 3.5 inches of rain are forecast to fall in Los Angeles and Ventura counties through Friday, according to the weather wervice. As Narvaez referenced, mountain areas could get up to 5 inches of rain.
Forecasters warned of the potential for downed trees and power outages.
A warm front ahead of the system will keep snow levels much higher with Thursday’s storm, NWS stated.
Snow is expected to drop to about the 4,500-foot level, with 1 to 3 feet accumulating at elevations above 6,000 feet.
A winter storm watch will be in effect for the Los Angeles and San Bernardino mountains from Thursday afternoon through Friday afternoon, according to the weather wervice.
The stormy weather is expected to give way to sunny skies on Saturday and Sunday.