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California Braces for Mudslides

LOS ANGELES A powerful fall storm packing strong winds and rain drenched fire-scarred hillsides around California on Wednesday, and residents from north to south braced for possible mudslides and debris flows.

The storm prompted evacuation warnings earlier Tuesday near Santa Cruz and disrupted power across the state.

Officials urged residents to evacuate from about 60 homes in the town of Davenport in the Santa Cruz Mountains, 50 miles south of San Francisco, where more than six inches of rain fell on an area that burned in August.

Residents in the area of the massive Station Fire in Los Angeles County were on guard. The wildfire burned into the backyards of foothill homes in September, and stripped the steep mountains of vegetation that holds the soil to the slopes of the San Gabriel Mountains.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning early Wednesday for a burn area in Santa Barbara County.

Heavy rainfall was expected to cause flash flooding and debris flows in a part of the county scorched by recent wildfire, according to the weather service. The warning was to remain in effect until 3 a.m. Wednesday.

The U.S. Geological Survey recently warned residents that even small storms could unleash massive flows of debris-laden water into communities.

"My neighbor she's lived here for a long while says the mud comes down the street, takes a right into our driveway and goes right through our front door," said high school teacher Jim Smiley, who brought his two sons to stock up on sandbags filled by cheerful volunteers at a La Crescenta park.

County public works crews towed heavy concrete barriers into place along steep and winding streets and residents barricaded their driveways with plywood dams propped up with sandbags and rocks.

The storm slammed into a drought-stricken state that has become a checkerboard of wildfire scars. Flash flood watches were posted for burn areas dating back to early 2008.

Dorothy Kruegermann, 44, of La Crescenta, said geologists warned her and her neighbors that roads could wash out and strand them. While her 7-year-old son twirled a big blue and white umbrella in the driveway Tuesday, she said she planned to spend the night with her in-laws.

"The funny thing is we just had a block party on Saturday to celebrate together the fact that we survived the fire," she said.

It was the same scene in Santa Barbara, where a May wildfire destroyed many homes.

"It is obvious to me there are going to be some slides," said resident Richard Payatt, 46. "It's part of living in Santa Barbara with these beautiful hills. Occasionally you get fires, and then you get slides."

High winds knocked out power to more than 250,000 residents throughout the state.

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