More rain in store after 3 killed in California storms

Posted at 3:12 PM, Feb 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-18 17:12:43-05

By Steve Almasy, Azadeh Ansari and Kelly McCleary

(CNN) — Northern California is bracing for an onslaught of rain beginning late Saturday as the southern part of the state dries out and assesses damage from downpours that left at least three people dead.

The rain headed for the north could pose a threat to Oroville Dam, where rising water levels may test the limits of a damaged spillway.

Storms are due to start overnight Saturday and linger through Monday, with 2 to 4 inches of widespread rain expected, CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar said. Some areas may get up to 10 inches.

Driving rain could dramatically reduce visibility, Chinchar warned.

Meanwhile, power is still out and cars submerged across Southern California, which experienced one of its most drenching storms in recent years.

More than 131,000 customers lost power Friday night, officials said. Sinkholes, localized floods and downed trees and power lines also were reported.

In Victorville in San Bernardino County, one person was found dead Friday in a flooded vehicle, firefighters said. A second storm victim, a 55-year-old man, was electrocuted when a power line fell Friday in the Sherman Oaks area of Los Angeles, the fire department said.

On Saturday, the Thousand Oaks Police Department said a body was recovered from a river gorge after floodwaters receded. Police didn’t give any details about the identity of the victim.

Skirting death as storm rages

The storm proved harrowing for one Los Angeles driver on Friday night, when the road beneath her car gave out, plunging her to the bottom of a 20-foot sinkhole, CNN affiliate KTLA-TV reported.

“My car kept turning and turning upside down, and I was just like, ‘I got to stay calm,’ ” Stephanie Scott told the TV station.

Scott managed to climb out of her car and yell for help. When firefighters arrived, they used ladders to free her from the sinkhole.

“It’s totally a miracle,” Scott told KTLA. About 10 minutes after she was pulled to safety, a van teetering on the edge of the hole crashed down on top of her car, the station reported.

In San Bernardino County, CNN affiliate KABC-TV captured the breathtaking moment a fire truck plummeted off a washed-out roadway.

Rescuers were responding to a report that a semitrailer had fallen over the edge of southbound Interstate 15. KABC video shows the fire truck’s right rear tire dangling over the edge.

Suddenly, more pavement gives way, and the truck tumbles over the side.

No one was in the fire truck when it fell, and no one was hurt, fire officials told KABC. The driver of the semitrailer was also OK, KABC reported.

While some roads are washed away, others are covered in thick mud and rocks.

Mike Myers posted video to Twitter from Highway 138 in the West Cajon Valley showing a car with its tires buried in mud, the front bumper apparently ripped off.

The rain was so furious at one point, a parking garage in Los Angeles turned into a waterfall.

Rainfall totals by the National Weather Service showed parts of Santa Barbara County have seen more than 7 inches of rain in two days. Parts of Ventura County have seen totals of more than 6 inches.

The storm has also blanketed higher elevations with snow.

Winter storm warnings were posted Saturday morning. National Weather Service said snow showers and gusting winds were expected.

Oroville Dam ‘is holding up’

Officials near Oroville Dam are watching the incoming rain after evacuations were ordered earlier this week when a swollen Lake Oroville and a damaged spillway at the dam led to a flash-flood threat.

The new round of rainfall brings more worries for communities south of the dam.

On Tuesday, officials downgraded the evacuation order to a warning, allowing 188,000 evacuees from Butte, Sutter and Yuba counties to return home.

On Friday, officials voiced optimism that the dam and lake could handle the upcoming rain.

“We have generated a large volume of storage space so we can take on a very big storm,” said Bill Croyle, acting director of the California Department of Water Resources.

The threat level has been reduced for residents living near the dam, but Butte County officials advised those returning to their homes to “remain vigilant and prepared.”

“The dam is holding up, it’s structurally sound,” said Jay Smith, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

CNN’s Dottie Evans, Cheri Mossburg, Rachel Aissen, Emma Shapiro and Carma Hassan contributed to this report.