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No significant drought dent but no serious damage either as storm covers California

  • California-Storms-1

    Glendora city workers clear mud and debris from the hills, in Glendora, Calif. on Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. The first wave of a powerful Pacific storm spread rain and snow early Friday through much of California, where communities endangered by a wildfire just weeks ago now faced the threat of mud and debris flows. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

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    A toppled tree is shown after it fell over in the rain-soaked earth Friday Feb. 28, 2014 in Los Angeles. The first wave of a powerful Pacific storm spread rain and snow early Friday through much of California, where communities endangered by a wildfire just weeks ago now faced the threat of mud and debris flows. (AP Photo/Alicia Chang)

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  • California-Storms-3

    A pedestrian blocks the heavy winds with her umbrella in Los Angeles Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. The first wave of a powerful Pacific storm spread rain and snow early Friday through much of California, where communities endangered by a wildfire just weeks ago now faced the threat of mud and debris flows. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

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  • California-Storms-4

    Manufacturing Assembly worker Terry Young, 24, of Rialto, Calif., uses a sheet of plastic to protect himself from a downpour Friday, Feb. 28, 2014, as he jumps a flooded parking lot from a wood pallet to get to a food truck during his break in Anaheim, Calif. The first wave of a powerful Pacific storm spread rain and snow early Friday through much of California, where communities endangered by a wildfire just weeks ago now faced the threat of mud and debris flows. (AP Photo/The Orange County Register, Ken Steinhardt) MAGS OUT; LOS ANGELES TIMES OUT ////ADDITIONAL INFO: - 07.weather.0228.ks - Day: Friday - Date: 2/28/14 - Time: 9:20:31 AM - Original file name _KSA9415.NEF - KEN STEINHARDT, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER --

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  • California-Storms-5

    Meredith McCarthy and her son Jasper Ward, 7, retrieve a plastic bottle as volunteers with Heal The Bay's storm response team remove snack-food packaging, plastic drink containers, single-use bags and other debris washed into the ocean from the Pico-Kenter outfall, a storm drain that serves a large part of the Westside of Los Angeles, at Santa Monica Beach, Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. Heavy rains will flush accumulated trash into the ocean, where it becomes a health hazard to humans and sea life. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

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  • California-Storms-6

    A SUV drives through a flooded portion of a street in Encino, section of Los Angeles Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. The first wave of a powerful Pacific storm spread rain and snow early Friday through much of California, where communities endangered by a wildfire just weeks ago now faced the threat of mud and debris flows. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

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  • California-Storms-Los-Angeles-River

    With the Los Angeles skyline in the background, the Los Angeles River flows. Two men and their dogs were rescued earlier from the swift waters of the Los Angeles River.

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California-Storms-Los-Angeles-River

With the Los Angeles skyline in the background, the Los Angeles River flows. Two men and their dogs were rescued earlier from the swift waters of the Los Angeles River.

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AZUSA, Calif. — A storm that brought some of the highest rainfall totals to the Los Angeles area in years, including eight inches on some mountains, was just the beginning of what the region needs to pull out of a major drought.

Although the storm was expected to remain strong Saturday, forecasters said such systems would have to become common for the state to make serious inroads against the drought.

“We need several large storms and we just don’t see that on the horizon,” National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Boldt said Friday. “This is a rogue storm. We will dry out next week.”

But the storm had yet to do serious damage either. At least not yet.

In Azusa and neighboring foothill communities about 25 miles east of Los Angeles that sit beneath nearly 2,000 acres of steep mountain slopes that just weeks ago were menaced by a wildfire, about 1,200 homes were under evacuation orders over mudflow fears but were so-far spared.

In particular danger were about a dozen homes in Azusa that were backed up against a steep fire-denuded hillside several hundred feet high that authorities feared could collapse.

Muddy water swept down the hillside earlier in the day, spreading about two feet of ooze above one backyard, although fencing walls and an orchard of about 5,000 avocado trees behind the development stopped most serious debris.

Despite the urging of police and fire officials who cleared reporters and others out of the neighborhood as the hill grew more saturated, at least a few residents decided to stay on.

Dennis Sanderson, 50, said his reaction to the evacuation order was “we’ll ride it out,” but by nightfall he was undecided and keeping an eye on the weather because of forecasts for more rainfall.

Only a half-inch of rain was expected late Friday night “but that doesn’t mean that mountain won’t come down, so we’ll probably go ahead and leave,” Sanderson said.

Ed Heinlein, 65, evacuated early Friday with five other family members including his 5-week-old grandson to stay with friends, but kept returning to eye the house and the mountain, where mud filled furrows more than three feet deep and brimmed over retaining walls three feet tall.

“It’s your home and your life, so it’s hard to stay away” Heinlein said. However, “We’re not to go back until the threat clears.”

About 13 homes were evacuated Friday night in Palmdale in northern Los Angeles County, where a mudslide closed a major road.

Thunder echoed and hard rain fell late Friday night on Hollywood, which was abuzz with preparations for Sunday evening’s Academy Awards and hopes the rain will have moved on by then as expected.

Rainfall totals in parts of California were impressive, especially in areas that typically don’t receive much, but not nearly enough to offer long-term relief from a long-running drought.

Three inches fell on Bel Air and Pasadena, and an urban flash-flood warning that was sent to cell phones was called late Friday night for central Los Angeles County.

For the first time in nearly three years, downtown Los Angeles received more than 2 inches — doubling its total for the rainy season that began in July, the National Weather Service said. Yet the city remained 7 inches below the normal 11 inches.

Meanwhile to the east in San Bernardino County, a levee failed and put eight houses in danger of serious flooding, but county fire crews were working to protect them and no evacuations were ordered.

Forecasters expected the storm to last through Saturday in California before trundling east into similarly rain-starved neighboring states. Phoenix was expecting its first noticeable precipitation in two months. The storm was projected to head east across the Rockies before petering out in the Northeast in several days.

Rain also fell along the central coast, the San Francisco Bay area and Central Valley.

Winter storm warnings were in effect in the Sierra Nevada. About 15 inches of new snow had fallen by mid-day Friday at the University of California, Berkeley’s Central Sierra Snow Lab located at 6,900 feet elevation.

A tornado warning was issued for Sacramento, Yolo and Sutter Counties Friday night but was canceled soon after.

Farmer Ray Gene Veldhuis, who grows almonds, walnuts and pistachios and runs a 2,300-cow dairy in the Central Valley’s Merced County, welcomed the wet weather but knew it would not rescue California from drought.

“Hopefully, they keep coming,” Veldhuis said of the storms. “If not, we’ll deal with the hand we’re dealt.”

Numerous traffic accidents occurred on slick or flooded roads across California, including one about 60 miles east of Los Angeles involving a big rig whose driver died after falling from a freeway overpass.

Power outages hit about 32,000 customers, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and Southern California Edison said.

The storm was good news for other Californians who didn’t have to worry about mudslides.

Kite-surfer Chris Strong braved pelting rain to take advantage of strong winds that gave him about an hour of fun over the pounding surf in Huntington Beach.

“I don’t get to kite here in these conditions very often — only a handful of times — but you put them in the memory bank,” he said.

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