Storm, Mudslides Tear Through Southern California Burn Scars

LOS ANGELES (CN) – Mudslides closed major roadways in parts of Southern California burned by a massive wildfire last month, including the Pacific Coast Highway which was swamped with mud and rocks Thursday.

Some parts of Southern California saw more than four inches of rain over a two-day period, according to the National Weather Service in Los Angeles.

Emergency officials have been preparing for the first rainfall of the season after the Woolsey Fire destroyed 1,643 buildings throughout Los Angeles and Ventura counties, leaving large swaths of land without vegetation to keep the soil in the place.

Strong winds fanned the flames, which burned nearly 100,000 acres and destroyed over 400 homes in the coastal city of Malibu. Damage to the city and the mansions of its residents will likely top $1.6 billion.

The fire was contained in late November. Three people died in the fire and the cause remains under investigation, according to fire officials.

Residents are on flash flood advisory as of Thursday afternoon after 1/3 of an inch of rain fell during a 30-minute window early in the day, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Keily Delerme.

The deluge created muddy streams across fire-scarred areas and closed multiple roadways, including portions of the Pacific Coast Highway, according to the California Department of Transportation.

Further inland, highway officials closed a stretch of Interstate 5 through the Tehachapi Mountains known as “the Grapevine” due to snow.

Residents living near the burn scar of the Holy Fire in Riverside County have been told they must flee as emergency officials prepare for more rain in the forecast Thursday.

“Thunderstorms are unpredictable and can occur without warning,” emergency officials said in their mandatory evacuation order.

The Holy Fire burned about 23,000 acres this past August. Authorities suspect it was started by a man who threatened a local volunteer fire official.

Forrest Clark, 51, was arrested on suspicion of two counts of felony arson and threat to terrorize, and one count of misdemeanor resisting arrest, according to law enforcement.

Meanwhile, a Southwest Airlines flight rolled off the end of a runway at Hollywood Burbank Airport shortly after 9 a.m. There were no reported injuries according to a Federal Aviation Administration official.

The National Weather Service said rainfall rates are now between ¼ and ½ per hour. The storm is expected to linger through Friday morning.

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