LOS ANGELES (AP) — Voters headed to polls as a major winter storm pounded California on Election Day, bringing rain and snow to the drought-stricken state along with possible flash flooding in areas recently scarred by wildfires, and fears that the downpours could lead to a low turnout.
Some of the heaviest rain is expected later Tuesday in Orange County, which is holding several very close U.S. House races that could determine which party controls Congress.
The Republican Party of Orange County urged members to vote early and avoid getting stuck in the rain on Election Day.
“Election day lines are long and typically one to two hours long. Don’t risk getting caught waiting in the rain to cast your ballot,” an email sent by the party Monday said.
The storm arrived Monday and is forecast to last into midweek, bringing hopes that the precipitation could blunt an already moderate wildfire season in California.
But in some areas, the rain posed its own problems Tuesday.
A homeless man was found dead Tuesday in a concrete channel in the city of Ontario in San Bernadino County. Officials said he and five others were swept away by rainwater that flooded the channel. Firefighters were able to pull some out of the wash as a downpour swelled the concrete drainage but two remain missing, the San Bernardino Sun reported.
The city of Duarte, in the Southern California foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, issued mandatory evacuation orders late Monday night for about 25 homes in the Fish Fire burn scar area. Other evacuation orders are in place through Wednesday morning for canyon areas in the Santa Ana Mountains' Bond Fire burn scar.
In Northern California, meteorologists issued a flash flood watch through 5 p.m. Tuesday, warning that heavy rainfall could lead to debris flows and flash flooding in the burn scars of the Colorado and River wildfires.
Between 1 and 3 inches (2.54 and 7.62 centimeters) of rainfall are expected through Wednesday in the Los Angeles area's coast and valleys. The foothills and mountains could see up to 5 inches (12.70 centimeters). Thunderstorms are expected to last Tuesday afternoon into the evening, National Weather Service meteorologists said.
Meteorologists say mountain peaks above 6,000 feet (1,800 meters) elevation could get 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 centimeters) of snowfall, with 20 inches (50 centimeters) possible locally.
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for the greater Lake Tahoe area on Tuesday as heavy snow fell in the region, causing backups in major highways in the area. The agency warned driving in the region would be extremely difficult, if not impossible.
“Be prepared for whiteout conditions and sub-zero wind chills along ridgelines and near the mountain passes,” the agency said in its alert, adding that the hazardous conditions will affect motorists during peak commute times.