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Taking flight over storm

December 07, 2007|Sam Quinones | Times Staff Writer

Residents of three Orange County canyons were evacuated for the third time in two months Thursday, this time in anticipation of a significant rainstorm expected to barrel into Southern California.

Residents were taking pets and prized possessions, and calmly driving out of Modjeska, Williams and Silverado canyons. The storm is expected to dump up to 3 inches of rain over two days, and has prompted the National Weather Service to issue a flash-flood watch.

The storm would mark the first time since April 2006 that a single storm brought that amount of rain, said Stuart Seto, chief weather specialist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

The heaviest rain was expected to arrive after midnight and move on later today, although a chance of showers was forecast through Saturday morning.

Areas denuded by fires, such as the Orange County canyons, were a special concern.

"It doesn't take much to set off those mud and debris flows," Seto said.

In October, canyon residents fled raging wildfires that scorched the hillsides. Late last month, they evacuated again in anticipation of rainstorms and mudslides, though the slopes held firm.

Voluntary evacuations announced Thursday morning for the fire-scorched canyons became mandatory at 5 p.m., with residents given until 8 p.m. to leave, authorities said.

Those with large animals were ordered to move them to the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa.

An evacuation shelter was opened at El Modena High School in Orange. Evacuation information: (714) 628-7085.

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service issued a flash-flood watch for coastal and mountain areas through this afternoon.

sam.quinones@latimes.com

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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