United States: Rain soaks California causing floods

A large winter storm brought much-needed relief to parched California recently, boosting depleted reservoirs and the Sierra Nevada’s mountain snowpack, but officials said the precipitation would be too little to offset years of drought.

The heavy rains also prompted flash flood warnings across much of Southern California and posed a particular threat to foothill communities where recent wildfires stripped vegetation from large areas, leaving homes below vulnerable to potential mudslides.

Mandatory evacuations were in effect recently for more than 1,200 homes in some slide-prone areas east of Los Angeles, where sandbags were stacked around driveways and miles of concrete barriers were lined up along the streets to channel heavy hillside runoff away from houses.

The downpours even posed challenges to crews preparing for Sunday night’s Oscar ceremony in Hollywood, soaking parts of the newly installed red carpet.

California is in its third year of a dry spell that may break all records in the most populous U.S. state, where lawmakers on Thursday swiftly passed a series of drought relief proposals to Governor Jerry Brown for his signature. President Barack Obama has also pledged millions of dollars in aid.

“Despite these recent storms, it would still have to rain every other day until around May to reach average precipitation totals, and even then we would still be in a drought due to the last two dry years,” said Richard Stapler, spokesman for the California Natural Resources Agency.

Officials have said that California farmers facing drastic cutbacks in irrigation water are expected to idle half a million acres of cropland this year in a record production loss that could cause billions of dollars in economic damage.

Rain and high winds caused road closures and power outages across Southern California and brought enough snow that tire chains were required for driving on mountain roads near the Nevada border.

Source | http://www.reuters.com