Evacuation ordered in California mudslide area

United States Drought Monitor

Winter weather watches and warnings have been issued for large portions of Utah, see the graphics below for maps.

Total snow accumulations above the 3,000 foot elevation will range from eighteen inches to seven feet. "This will be a highly impactful storm for the entire area as 8 to 14" of heavy snow is possible beginning tonight through tomorrow afternoon.

The warning is in effect from late Thursday night through late Friday night.

A major storm system is heading toward California.

Geologists estimate that the scorched earth won't grow vegetation for three to five years, meaning every time a major storm moves into the area, residents may be asked or ordered to evacuate.

The California Department of Transportation said 90-miles stretch of Interstate 80 was closed between Colfax, California, and the Nevada state line due to whiteout conditions.

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Stephanie Myers, a spokeswoman for Heavenly Mountain Resort and Kirkwood Mountain Resort in Lake Tahoe, estimated snow was falling at about 2 inches an hour.

Chains or snow tires were needed on stretches of Interstate 80, US 50 and USA 395. Dozens of collisions were reported on Northern California highways, although the rains let up in the afternoon.

The dump would be a boon to the Sierra snowpack, which is vital to the state's water supply but is only about a quarter its normal size at this time of year for the winter season.

"We're thrilled about this storm", Myers said. Forecasters warn of heavy snowfall in the northern mountains, and predict widespread rainfall elsewhere which is raising concern about flash flooding near wildfire burn scars in southern regions of the state.

The order encompasses Montecito, where a January 9 storm triggered flash floods that destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes.

- Authorities in California have issued a mandatory evacuation order for areas of the Santa Barbara County coast in advance of overnight rain and the possibility of debris flows like those that devastated Montecito in January. Twenty-one people were killed and two remain missing.

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