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.


France’s Macron visits Trump as Iran nuclear deal hangs in balance

Updated 43 min 58 sec ago
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France’s Macron visits Trump as Iran nuclear deal hangs in balance

  • While the French leader has tried to develop a close relationship with Trump since he took office in May, he has so far seen little tangible results on issues from Iran to climate politics.
  • Macron also wants to persuade Trump to exempt European nations from metal tariffs that are part of the US president’s plan to reduce chronic trade deficits with countries around the world, chiefly China.

WASHINGTON: French President Emmanuel Macron arrives in Washington on Monday for a state visit likely to be dominated by differences over trade and the nuclear accord with Iran.
As Macron headed west, the Iranian government urged European leaders to convince US President Donald Trump not to tear up the 2015 deal between Tehran and six world powers. Allies also spoke out in support of it.
Macron said on Sunday there was no “Plan B” for keeping a lid on Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
He is on something of a rescue mission for what is formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which Trump has said he will scrap unless European allies fix what he called “terrible flaws” by mid-May.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called on European leaders to support it.
“It is either all or nothing. European leaders should encourage Trump not just to stay in the nuclear deal, but more important to begin implementing his part of the bargain in good faith,” Zarif wrote on his Twitter account.
The deal reached between six powers — all of whom but Germany are nuclear-armed — and Tehran put curbs on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
Macron said on Fox News Sunday that it would be better to protect the deal instead of to get rid of it as there was no other plan.
“Is this agreement perfect and this JCPOA a perfect thing for our relationship with Iran? No. But for nuclear — what do you have? As a better option? I don’t see it,” he said.
Macron’s visit is the first time Trump has hosted a state visit since he took power in January 2017. While the French leader has tried to develop a close relationship with Trump since he took office in May, he has so far seen little tangible results on issues from Iran to climate politics.
The two men will get a sense of their two countries’ shared history during an evening meal on Monday night at Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington, the first US president and Revolutionary War commander whose alliance with France was critical to victory over the British.
Working meetings will be held at the White House on Tuesday before Macron addresses Congress the following day, the anniversary of the day that French General Charles de Gaulle addressed a Joint Session of Congress in 1960.
Trump and the 40-year-old French leader began their friendship a year ago in Belgium with a jaw-clenching handshake. While some other European leaders have kept a certain distance from Trump, Macron has worked hard to remain close to the US president and the two leaders speak frequently by phone.
Highlighting the difficulties Macron will face reversing Trump’s mind on Iran, US non-proliferation envoy Christopher Ford said Tehran presenteded a very real long-term challenge.
“Iran (is) a country that for years illegally and secretly sought to develop nuclear weapons, suspended its weaponization work only when confronted by the potentially direst of consequences without ever coming clean about its illicit endeavours,” he told a non-proliferation conference in Geneva.
Iran has long maintained that its nuclear program was for peaceful purposes.
Macron also wants to persuade Trump to exempt European nations from metal tariffs that are part of the US president’s plan to reduce chronic trade deficits with countries around the world, chiefly China.
His visit comes at a time of mounting alarm in Europe over the knock-on effect that US sanctions on Russia will have on their own manufacturing industries.
French officials said Paris and other European governments were coordinating efforts to persuade Trump to ease sanctions on Russia, including measures against Russian aluminum producers.
“There are concerns raised by the extraterritoriality effects of the new sets of sanctions,” a French finance minstry source said. “Europeans...have jointly warned the US Administration about the economic impact and consequences and the need to find solutions.”
The official said France, Germany, Italy and Ireland were working together on the matter. German Chancellor Angela Merkel will hold talks with Trump in Washington later in the week.
Macron and Trump are also due to discuss Syria, less than two weeks after the United States, France and Britain launched airstrikes in Syria in retaliation for a suspected chemical weapons attack that killed dozens in Douma, Syria.
Macron said last week that he believed he had persuaded Trump to keep US troops in Syria, though Trump has been insistent on bringing them home.