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Rain-saturated slopes worry California cities

| Saturday, March 1, 2014, 7:27 p.m.

LOS ANGELES — Saturated mountainsides loomed over foothill communities on Saturday as a storm centered off California rotated bands of rain into a state that sorely needs the moisture but not at such dangerously high rates.

Evacuation orders remained in effect for hundreds of homes in Los Angeles County foothill communities, where fires have burned away vegetation that holds soil in place, and bursts of rain caused the mountains to belch occasional debris flows.

Officials warned that despite lengthy lulls, the forecast called for more downpours, and they urged residents who left their homes three days earlier to be patient.

“These mountains are now saturated and soaked. We know where the mud's going to go. We just don't how much and what the intensity is going to be,” said Assistant Chief Steve Martin of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

About 1,200 houses in the adjacent cities of Azusa and Glendora as well as nearby Monrovia have been under evacuation orders because of the possibility of destructive flows from the San Gabriel Mountains, a rugged range largely covered by the Angeles National Forest.

Downtown San Francisco received 7.92 inches of rain, bringing the city to 44 percent of its normal rainfall but avoiding the city's driest “rain year” record by just half an inch, National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Mehle said. The driest year was 1851, with just 7.42 inches. The rain year begins July 1.

The downpour was not enough to end the drought in the state. California Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday signed into law a $687 million relief package to deal with a water shortage he has called the worst in the state's modern history.

The legislation is intended to help residents, farmers and local communities, in part by tapping voter-approved bond money.

The storm helped other parched states.

A 70-day streak without precipitation was broken in the Phoenix area. An 85-day spell of no measurable rainfall in Las Vegas ended. And rain and snow at last brought help to drought-stricken New Mexico.

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