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Biggest storm yet heads for Calif; homes evacuated

Dec 22, 2010 3:15:00 AM - thestate.com
After days of relentless rain, Southern California is awaiting the most intense storm system yet, with evacuations ordered, rescue crews on standby and residents anxiously eyeing already saturated mountainsides denuded by wildfires.

Forecasters expected more rain across the state Wednesday, but the focus clearly was on Southern California where a monster storm was expected to bring torrential rain, thunderstorms, flooding, hail and possible tornadoes and water spouts. Forecasters warned of possible rainfall rates of .75 inch to 1 inch an hour and thunderstorm rates of 2 inches an hour in the region.

Steady rain began falling late Tuesday and was expected to intensify into early Wednesday.

"It's going to be a three-ring circus," said National Weather Service spokesman Bill Hoffer. "There's going to be a six-hour time frame in the early morning when it's really going to be dumping on us."

Officials on Tuesday ordered evacuation of 232 homes in La Canada Flintridge and La Crescenta, foothill suburbs of Los Angeles below steep hillsides that burned in 2009 and where mudslides inundated homes and backyards in February.