Flash flooding hit a wildfire-scarred area of Northern California on Thursday, forcing officials to deploy swift water rescue teams to save people stuck in vehicles and rescue them from homes after a downpour near the Paradise area.
Authorities said they used boats to rescue people from three homes and told people in about 100 vehicles to stay in place until the rain receded in late afternoon. They received reports of flooding on roads and of downed trees and utility poles.
Dale Word, a firmware engineer, was evacuated briefly Thursday from his semi-rural Chico neighborhood for the second time this month.
Word waded out in thigh-high water to higher ground until the rain receded, leaving a mess of sticky mud and debris. He said he was stunned by the disasters that have hit Butte County. The fire came within several hundred feet of his home.
Thursday's storm brought 1½ inches of rain in an hour, toppling trees and trapping motorists in flooded roads downstream, said National Weather Service meteorologist Craig Shoemaker.
The Butte County Sheriff's Department ordered evacuations but could not say how many people were affected. The water rescues were in an area of Chico, which is downhill from Paradise, and a city where many of the wildfire evacuees have been staying since the town of 27,000 was destroyed just three weeks ago by a deadly wildfire.
People from three homes in Word's Chico neighborhood were rescued by boat, said Rick Carhart, a spokesman with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said that at one point, people in about 100 vehicles were told to stay in place.
Emergency response crews earlier cleared a tree that toppled in the town of Magalia, but no other reports of damage had been received after an inch of rain fell overnight in the burn zone about 140 miles (225 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco.
Paradise has been under mandatory evacuation orders for nearly three weeks since a wildfire killed at least 88 people and destroyed nearly 14,000 homes.
Residents could begin returning early next week, but only if the storm doesn't hinder efforts to clear roads and restore power, said Honea, the sheriff.
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