Worst still to come from California storm, weather forecasters say

Workers place sandbags on a washed-out driveway on La Tuna Canyon Road in Sun Valley, California. A strong Pacific storm dropped heavy rain Wednesday on a swath of California where thousands of people have been evacuated because of the threat of debris flows and mudslides from wildfire burn areas. (Los Angeles Daily News via AP)
Updated 22 March 2018
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Worst still to come from California storm, weather forecasters say

LOS ANGELES: Although the first wave of a worrisome Pacific storm hasn’t caused any major problems in California, forecasters say the worst is still to come, leaving authorities and disaster-weary residents on edge.
Record rain fell Wednesday in parts of Southern California where thousands of people have been evacuated because of the threat of debris flows and mudslides from wildfire burn areas.
Although there were no major debris flows as feared, forecasters warned that disaster is still very possible as the rain picks up on Thursday.
“We’re very concerned,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Joe Sirard. “We’re hoping this isn’t a cry-wolf scenario where people will pooh-pooh what we’re saying.”
The storm came ashore on the central coast and spread south into the Los Angeles region and north through San Francisco Bay, fed by a long plume of subtropical moisture called an atmospheric river.
It also moved eastward, bringing the threat of flooding to the San Joaquin Valley and Sierra Nevada, where winter storm warnings for new snow were in effect on the second day of spring.
Record rainfall was recorded in five spots including Santa Barbara, Palmdale and Oxnard, where nearly 1.8 inches (4.5 centimeters) of rain had fallen by Wednesday evening. That’s compared to the record of 1.3 inches (7.6 centimeters) set in 1937.
Nearly 5 inches (13 centimeters) of rain had fallen in northern San Luis Obispo County, while 2.7 inches (7 centimeters) fell in Santa Clarita, just north of Los Angeles and 2.6 inches (6.6 centimeters) was recorded at one spot in Santa Barbara County.
Authorities kept a close watch on Santa Barbara County, hoping there would not be a repeat of the massive January debris flows from a burn scar that ravaged the community of Montecito and killed 21 people.
Mud and rockslides closed several roads in the region, including Highway 1 at Ragged Point near Big Sur, not far from where the scenic coast route is still blocked by a massive landslide triggered by a storm last year.
A large pine tree was felled in Los Angeles, landing across a residential street into a picket fence. No one was hurt.
Carolyn Potter, 59, evacuated from her home in Casitas Springs in Ventura County on Wednesday — the fourth time since September — and plans to sleep in her car in a grocery store parking lot to avoid hotel costs and the bustle of an evacuation shelter.
Meanwhile her husband Alan is staying home, just like he has the other three times Potter has evacuated because of fires or storms since September.
“It’s OK because we’re not fighting,” Potter said. “I get to leave and he stays. It’s like, ‘See you later.’ We’re both happy.
“I feel better not being under the cliff in my sleep,” Potter said. “If he feels OK that’s his problem. If something happens maybe I’ll zip on down and dig him out.”
With the storm expected to last through Thursday, there was concern about the combination of rainfall rates and the long duration, said Suzanne Grimmesey, a spokeswoman for Santa Barbara County.
With the grim Montecito experience in recent memory, Santa Barbara County ordered evacuation of areas along its south coast near areas burned by several wildfires dating back to 2016.
“We actually do feel good about the evacuation order,” Grimmesey said. “Law enforcement was out in the extreme risk areas of Montecito yesterday knocking on doors. For those that were home, we had a very good cooperation rate with people leaving.”
Many residents in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties have faced repeated evacuations or advisories since December, when a wind-driven fire grew into the largest in recorded state history and destroyed more than 1,000 buildings.
In Los Angeles County, authorities canceled some planned mandatory evacuations because of a projected decrease in rainfall but kept others in place because of debris flows in one canyon area stripped bare by wildfire.


Philippine president wants to end anti-drug war in three years

Updated 21 March 2019
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Philippine president wants to end anti-drug war in three years

  • Philippines being investigated for extrajudicial killings
  • Anti-drug campaign signature policy of president

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday he wanted to finish his war on drugs in three years, defying an international probe into his controversial and deadly campaign to rid the country of narcotics.
Duterte, who came to power in 2016, has made a ‘war on drugs’ the hallmark of his administration. 
But it has been reported that 20,000 people have been killed in what rights groups call a wave of “state-sanctioned violence.”
The firebrand president remains unfazed by the condemnation, and the cases filed against him by the International Criminal Court (ICC) over his crackdown.
He insisted he would assume full responsibility for any consequences due to his decision to enforce the law, telling a military audience his goals.
“I’d like to finish this war, both (with the) Abu Sayyaf (a militant group) and also the communists, and the drug problem in about three years … we'd be able (to) ... reduce the activities of the illegal trade and fighting to the barest minimum.
“I’m not saying I am the only one capable (of achieving these goals) ... I assume full responsibility for all that would happen as a consequence of enforcing the law — whether against the criminals, the drug traffickers or the rebels who’d want to destroy government.”
Earlier this month, the Philippines withdrew from the ICC, citing the global body's interference in how the country was run as the reason.
On Tuesday, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said that investigations into alleged extrajudicial killings in the Philippines would continue despite its exit.
But the government has said it will not cooperate with the ICC, and has even warned its personnel about entering the country for the investigation.
There are Filipinos who support Duterte’s campaign, however, and believe it works. Among them is former policeman Eric Advincula.
He said there had been an improvement in the situation since Duterte came to power. 
“For one, the peace and order situation has improved, like for example in villages near our place where there used to be rampant drug peddling,” he told Arab News. 
“The price of illegal drugs is now higher, an indication that the supply also went down. Also, it was easy to catch drug peddlers before because they were doing their trade openly. But now they are more careful, you can't easily locate them.”
Official data from the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in February indicated that 5,176 ‘drug personalities’ were killed in the anti-drugs war between July 1, 2016 to Jan. 31, 2019.
More than 170,000 drug suspects have been arrested during a total of 119,841 anti-narcotics operations in the last two and a half years.