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California Flood Sweeps Cabins, Cars Down Coastal Canyon

  • Associated Press

Cabins and vehicles are swept away by storm runoff at El Capitan Canyon Resort & Campground in Gaviota, Calif., Jan. 20, 2017.

More than 20 people escaped injury Friday when a flood swept cabins and vehicles down a coastal canyon as the second in a trio of storms drenched California with heavy rain and brought more snow to the mountains.

The troubles along the central coast were among many around the soaked state, including stranded cars, toppled trees, homeless people needing rescue and even an avalanche warning in one area.

The storm was the latest in a series that have caused a long drought to retreat from nearly half the state, a margin that could grow after a wet weekend.

A swollen creek lifted five cabins off their foundations at midmorning and swept 22 vehicles down El Capitan Canyon in Santa Barbara County, fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni said.

Firefighters rescued one person from a vehicle, and another person got out of another vehicle unassisted, he said. Neither was harmed.

Campers rescued

About 20 people stuck in the canyon were rescued from the private campground above a state beach about 115 miles northwest of Los Angeles, Zaniboni said.

Five of the vehicles and part of a cabin were found on the beach, he said.

By early afternoon the latest storm system had dumped more than 5 inches of rain in Refugio Pass in the Santa Ynez Mountains just to the northwest of El Capitan Canyon.

A sheriff's helicopter returning to an airport after the canyon incident spotted a car swamped by water, and a woman screaming for help from higher ground nearby was hoisted to safety, Zaniboni said.

Rescued campers survey the scene at the El Capitan Canyon campground following flooding due to heavy rains, in Gaviota, Calif., Jan. 20, 2017.

Rescued campers survey the scene at the El Capitan Canyon campground following flooding due to heavy rains, in Gaviota, Calif., Jan. 20, 2017.

Warnings, advisories

Throughout the day, forecasters issued a flurry of flash flood warnings and lower-level advisories as the storm moved from north to south down the length of California with high rates of rainfall.

"Storm #2 packing some punch,'' the Los Angeles-area National Weather Service office wrote.

Five people were rescued from a homeless encampment that was flooded out in downtown Los Angeles. One was hospitalized, but for unrelated reasons, authorities said.

In the San Diego area, four students had minor injuries after they were hit by a toppled tree near Chula Vista Middle School.

Inland mountains were blanketed with snow, and the L.A. County Sheriff's Department warned of avalanche danger in Wrightwood, which is popular with recreation-seekers.

The storm even delayed the first post-presidential vacation of Barack Obama and his family. They had to wait for their aircraft to land in Palm Springs.

To the north

In Northern California, a section of state highway flooded in Sonoma County, and water rose to the wheel hubs of cars along low-lying streets in and around Santa Cruz.

Runoff and rockslides in the Santa Monica Mountains west of Los Angeles forced the California Highway Patrol to close all canyon roads in the Malibu area.

Storm warnings were also posted up and down the Sierra Nevada after the second storm dropped nearly 2 feet of snow at higher elevations.

Along the coast, big surf was rolling ashore, and forecasters said waves could build to 30 feet on the Central Coast.

The third storm was forecast to be the strongest of the trio.

As of Thursday night, downtown Los Angeles had received 9.82 inches of rain since the start of the water year on October 1, nearly 4 inches above normal to date and well above the 3.76 inches that had fallen in the same period a year earlier.

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