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California buildings in peril from tumbling cliff

APTOPIX California Storms
Posted at 2:45 PM, Mar 17, 2023

SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. (AP) — About two dozen people forced to flee Southern California apartment buildings endangered by a tumbling oceanside hill may be evacuated indefinitely.

Three clifftop apartment buildings and one nearby building in coastal Orange County's San Clemente were red-tagged and evacuated Wednesday when the land began to shift and slide away from their backyards down a hillside following torrential rains.

Residents were warned Thursday that they may not be allowed back for a while. Authorities said there was no timetable for declaring the slope stable enough for residents to return.

“I think everyone should understand we have a dynamic situation here,” Mayor Chris Duncan said during a news conference. “We have another rainstorm coming, the ground is continuing to move, so these structures are still in peril.”

The National Weather Service said heavy rain could hit Southern California again early next week.

Twenty to 30 residents were evacuated. Some were briefly allowed back home on Thursday to move out their belongings.

Orange County was added to a presidential emergency declaration for areas hard-hit by natural disasters.

About 35 out of 58 California counties are now covered by the declaration, which authorizes federal assistance to help state and local governments deal with a series of fierce winter storms.

California has been hit with 11 atmospheric rivers in a virtually nonstop series that has sparked floods and landslides, toppled trees, stranded mountain dwellers in historically deep snow and downed power lines, leaving thousands without electricity.

Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley said the county had seen more than $4 million in storm damage, and the figure will escalate.

In the city of La Habra, news reports said a sinkhole about 30 foot (9.14 meters) deep opened up Wednesday night next to another sinkhole that opened up in 2019 after heavy rain. Repairs to the earlier hole have yet to be completed.

Some Southern California beaches were closed as heavy rain overwhelmed sewage systems and sent thousands of gallons of raw sewage to the sea. Ventura County closed beaches near the Santa Clara River after a collapsed sewer line spewed about 148,000 gallons (560,240 liters) of sewage into the waterway, which flows into the Pacific Ocean. The closures were expected to remain in place through the weekend or until testing shows bacteria levels are safe.