More storms are steering toward California, which is already deluged. Warnings of flash floods and mudslides are in place in some communities, as worries rise about additional flooding.
“I thought it was a big ‘duh’ that a vegetation-stripped hillside can’t hold rain,” says Ms. Miller, who owns a home in a nearby canyon that is now being pelted by record rains. But it could be even worse. “Now, I’m finding that last year’s [wildfires] released a gas into the soil that weakens roots and forms a wax-like layer over the soil just beneath the surface. That’s why rocks and trees and mud flow so fast it’s hard to get out of the way.”
How fast does mud flow? That's not exactly clear. Estimates from local news reports range from 35 to 64 miles per hour.
IN PICTURES: Global weather 2010
Miller, a travel agent, is happy to escape, at least for a few hours, the incessant TV team-coverage of the rare weather system now striking the state. Since Friday, downtown Los Angeles has received 3.75 inches of rain, one-fourth of the average yearly rainfall, says the National Weather Service. Local news and newspapers are filled with stories of people sandbagging their streets and backyards to guide rushing water and mud away from their homes, thanks to a weather phenomenon that hits the state about once a decade.