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Southern California braces for major storm

WATCH: California is getting much needed rain, but it’s also creating major problems. Bigad Shaban reports

LOS ANGELES – Homes were evacuated as a swift storm with expected heavy rain moved toward drought-plagued Southern California, bringing worries of mudslides where recent wildfires destroyed ground cover and left hillsides exposed.

The storm’s full force expected to be felt Friday morning, with possible thunderstorms and rains up to 25 millimetres per hour, the National Weather Service said.

A 15-kilometre stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway was closed overnight in Ventura County because of a high likelihood of rock slides in an area made bare by last year’s Springs Fire in Camarillo, the California Highway Patrol said.

On Thursday, mandatory evacuation orders were issued for about 1,000 homes in Glendora and Azusa, eastern foothill suburbs of Los Angeles that sit beneath nearly 800 hectares of steep mountain slopes stripped by another fire in January.

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“We have an hour to get evacuated,” said Dana Waldusky as she hurried to evacuate the family home next to the burn area in Glendora. “We’re just boarding up all our doors.”

WATCH: Incredible timelapse or L.A. river filling overnight from heavy rains

Waldusky, 22, said she, her parents and sister made sure they had important documents, photos, medicines and their toothbrushes packed.

“Last time, at the fire, we had 15 minutes, so this time we made sure we were prepared,” she said.

The home survived the fire, which firefighters stopped five metres from their back fence.

“This time there’s nothing you can do. You can’t stop water,” she said.

As a lighter storm moved through the area earlier in the week, residents focusing on Friday built barriers of wood and sandbags to keep debris flows in streets and out of homes.

While concern was highest in the Glendora-Azusa area, meteorologists also posted flood watches for many other areas denuded by fires over the past two years.

Cities in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties were handing out sandbags in anticipation of heavy rain.

Even waterspouts offshore and small tornados were possible, the NWS said.

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California’s rain totals are far below normal and it will take a series of drenching storms to make a dent in a statewide drought that is among the worst in recent history.