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Storm spares California area previously struck by mudslides

Evacuation orders were lifted on Friday.

Coastal communities in southern California have been spared a repeat of the deadly mudslides that struck in January.

Evacuation orders affecting up to 30,000 people on the south Santa Barbara County coast were lifted on Friday as rain moved through.

“The worst of the storm has passed and we are cautiously optimistic that due to a significant amount of pre-storm preparation we have come through this with minimal impact,” said Rob Lewin, director of the county Office of Emergency management.

Rain fell at a rate of 0.6 inches (1.5 centimetres) per hour and initial assessments showed no damage to electrical, gas or water service, the county said.

Some minor roadway flooding occurred, but the region’s main highway, US 101, remained open throughout the storm.

Officials said 87% of those in the threatened areas complied with the evacuation order, which was issued because of concern the storm could unleash debris flows from mountains burned bare by wildfires.

The order encompassed Montecito, where a January 9 storm triggered flash floods that destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes. Twenty-one people were killed and two remain missing.

Other areas impacted by the order were Goleta, Santa Barbara, Summerland and Carpinteria.

Department of Public Works official Tom Fayram said there would have been problems if not for work that had been done to clear channels of debris from the January storm.

A voluntary evacuation was also lifted in neighbouring Ventura County, where debris blocked a rural highway.

The storm pressed on across metropolitan Los Angeles, where the National Weather Service said there could be flooding near five wildfire burn areas. Heavy snow was expected in the mountains.

In the Sierra Nevada, a snowboarder who went missing during a blizzard on Thursday was found dead at the Squaw Valley ski resort near Lake Tahoe. Placer County authorities identified him as Wenyu Zhang, 42. The cause of death was not immediately determined.

An avalanche at about 3pm on Friday closed the resort.

The Placer County Sheriff’s Department tweeted on Friday that it appeared all skiers and snowboarders had been accounted for after the avalanche and that no fatalities were reported.

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