With the polar vortex in full retreat, the USA's wildest weather shifts to the West.
The dangerous cold and heavy snow that hobbled the northern U.S. this week wreaked plenty of havoc - with estimates as high as 24 dead - but a new form of deadly weather has encroached upon the western United States, battering California on Saturday.
Flash flood warnings were issued across the Golden State as heavy rain and mudflows shut down major highways and caused power outages for tens of thousands of people.
“This is a dangerous situation,” the National Weather Service said, warning that the high rates of rain could send boulders sluicing down denuded hillsides along with the mud and debris.
A wind gust in Santa Barbara County topped 80 mph as the storm moved south and later dropped more than a half-inch of rain in five minutes, according to the weather service. The event caused trees and power lines to fall across the region.
A large pine tree believed to be 100-years-old fell on a Santa Barbara home, and a eucalyptus tree fell into a two-story apartment complex in the city of Goleta.
#CAstorm- A large stone pine tree believed to be 100 yrs old came down into this Santa Barbara home during Saturday’s powerful winter storm. The resident was not injured. FF’s have been responding to multiple trees that have come down throughout the county. pic.twitter.com/mP70wBU3dn
— SBCFireInfo (@EliasonMike) February 2, 2019
In the Montecito area, Highway 101 was shut down in both directions due to mudflows. No homes were affected and road crews were busy clearing the mud, which in some areas was up to 3-feet deep, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Elsewhere in the county, evacuations were ordered or recommended for neighborhoods near the Thomas, Whittier and Sherpa fire scars.
The NWS said that areas near burn scars have a high-risk of flash flooding and debris flows.
Debris in Malibu Canyon near the tunnel #LARainpic.twitter.com/bDSPQ3z6ls
— MRCAParks (@MRCAParks) February 2, 2019
It has only been a little over a year since a downpour on the huge Thomas Fire burn scar unleashed a massive debris flow that destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes in the seaside community of Montecito. The disaster killed 21 people, and two others have never been found.
In Los Angeles County, 50-year-old Jeff Dye, a search-and-rescue team member was killed in a crash on wet roads on Interstate 5. The crash injured nine other people, including two other team members.
A minivan carrying a family was traveling too fast for the wet conditions, lost control and plowed into members of the team, Los Angeles County fire Capt. Tony Imbrenda said.
“This is a very unfortunate situation that could’ve been avoided,” Imbrenda said, warning motorists to slow down in the rain.
Rain is expected to continue in L.A. through Tuesday.
In Malibu, where the Woolsey fire last year destroyed homes and burned hillsides bare, officials closed the Pacific Coast Highway after mud flowed into lanes. Residents whose homes survived the flames barricaded their properties with sandbags to protect them from floodwaters.
In video captured by ABC7, a street in Malibu was transformed into a raging river. A mandatory evacuation was issued for the Malibu West neighborhood due to debris flow. The American Red Cross set up shelters for displaced residents, according to a statement posted on the City of Malibu website.
Mandatory Evacuation Issued for the Malibu West Neighborhood https://t.co/pH91IJqBpH
— City of Malibu (@CityMalibu) February 2, 2019
Evacuation warnings have been issued in Santa Barbara County and Ventura County, where many motorists got stuck driving in flooded streets, according to The Santa Barbara Fire Department.
Some flights were canceled, including 69 into and out of San Francisco, along with 14 Los Angeles flights and 11 trips to and from San Diego, according to Flightaware.com.
A storm is brewing! Come prepared for winter driving and possible road closures. Drivers are strongly encouraged to carry tire chains and be ready for chain restrictions to go into effect. Stay safe!
Check road conditions at 209/372-0200 (press 1, 1).https://t.co/KJeDVpqUC4pic.twitter.com/TS7SvEd8xt
— Yosemite National Park (@YosemiteNPS) February 2, 2019
The Oakland Zoo announced on Twitter that it was closed on Saturday due to inclement weather, and Yosemite National Park urged park goers to come prepared for winter driving and possible road closures.
A total of 37,934 power outages were reported in California, according to Poweroutage.us, which collects, records and aggregates live power outage data across the country.
"By Sunday, the energy impacting the West Coast will enter the Central Plains and bring heavy snow to the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest," The National Weather Service said.