Heavy rain and snow in U.S. West prompt evacuations | Reuters

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES Intense rain, heavy snow and strong winds pounded California and southern Oregon on Friday, prompting the evacuation of dozens of homes east of Los Angeles, officials said.As much as 10 inches (25 cm) of rain could fall at a rate of 1 inch (3 cm) per hour in parts of southern California on Friday, said the National Weather Service, raising the risk of mudslides.The severe storm, with what may be California's heaviest rainfall in six years, comes as months of wet weather have dramatically eased California's years-long drought. However, the heavy rain and melting snowpack threatened to undermine a spillway at one of the largest dams in the country, which prompted the evacuation of 188,000 residents earlier this week.The city of Duarte, about 20 miles (32 km) east of Los Angeles, said in a statement it had ordered residents of 180 homes to evacuate given the potential for mudslides.A forest fire charred an area above their homes last year, prompting concerns that rainwater could displace mud where there is no vegetation.

The downpours in other heavily populated areas of Southern California, including parts of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties also recently hit by wildfires, could create the risk of mud and debris flows there too, the weather service said."There will likely be widespread urban roadway flooding," it said. "There will also be a significant threat of rock and mudslides, especially near canyon roadways."Authorities have warned residents of an area west of Santa Barbara, California, where another wildfire ravaged vegetation last year, to prepare to leave their homes quickly if ordered to evacuate because of the storm, according to a message on the Facebook page of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office.

Rain was also forecast for Northern California and southern Oregon, where the weather service issued a flood warning until Friday afternoon.Southwest Airlines Co (LUV.N) said it had cancelled more than 250 flights in California, as the storm caused disruptions at several airports.

Airports in Los Angeles, San Francisco and other parts of California had dozens of cancelled or delayed flights on Friday, according to tracking website FlightAware.com.In higher areas of eastern California and western Nevada, as much as 2 feet (60 cm) of snow could cause whiteouts, forecasters said.The area should also expect gusts of 75 miles per hour (120 km per hour), potentially causing widespread power outages on Friday and Saturday, the service said. (Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Brendan O'Brian in Milwaukee; Editing by James Dalgleish and Lisa Shumaker)

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Updated Date: Feb 18, 2017 02:30:09 IST

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