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L.A. residents prepare for heavy storms as sprinkles begin

January 17, 2010 |  5:23 pm

As showers sprinkled Southern California on Sunday, some foothill residents spent the day fortifying their homes and waiting nervously as weather forecasters predicted a series of storms expected to pound the region with the heaviest downpour in several years.

A light drizzle dampened the downtown area in the early afternoon, providing a mild taste of what meteorologists say is on the way.

The National Weather Service predicted dangerous surf conditions, coastal flooding and possible mudslides and flash floods in areas scorched by recent wildfires in what forecasters said would be the area’s wettest weather since early 2005. They said the storms over the coming week could drench the area with as much as 20 inches of rain along some south-facing slopes and 8 inches along the coasts and in the valleys.

In preparation for mudslides, Los Angeles County crews have handed out 30,000 sandbags and arranged 10,000 feet of concrete barriers in foothill communities projected to bear the brunt of the deluge, said Department of Public Works spokesman Bob Spencer. Several dozen homeowners in deep canyon areas have been warned to leave if the rains arrive as expected, and more widespread evacuations are possible, he said.

“We’re hoping for the best and preparing for the worst,” Spencer said.

Light rainfall was predicted for Sunday evening, but the first of three storms is expected to strike Southern California at full force Monday afternoon, bringing strong winds, heavy snow in mountain areas and up to an inch of rain per hour.

That storm is forecast to drop between 3 and 6 inches of rain on areas charred by the summer’s Station fire in the Angeles National Forest before a weaker storm arrives Tuesday. Forecasters say a third storm – the strongest of the three – will wallop the region Wednesday and Thursday. The threat of showers could linger through Friday.

-- Jack Leonard

Photo: California Highway Patrol Officer Jeff Johnson is stationed on Big Tujunga Canyon Road at Mt. Gleason Avenue in Sunland at 5:30 a.m. today to turn away vehicles after the road was closed. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times