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Sluggish Storm Poised to Dump Up to Inch of Rain on County

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Delivering just a sprinkling of afternoon rain Tuesday, a warm and sluggish storm stood poised to soak Ventura County with a half inch to an inch of rain, forecasters said.

Rolling slowly off the ocean, the storm was predicted to hit hardest today, bringing with it the possibility of sometimes heavy rains and thunderstorms this afternoon.

“Where thunderstorm develop you could see up to an inch of rain,” said Robert Baruffaldi, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

By Tuesday night, however, the service withdrew its flash flood watch for the county’s mountains and foothills, saying the storm was staying farther north than expected.

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And a hydrologist at the county’s flood control office played down the possibility of flood waters charging down from the mountains, saying the earth was too dry to allow flooding.

“The soil moisture is not anywhere near saturation point,” said hydrologist John Weikel. “The soil can absorb quite a bit of rain before we have serious runoff conditions. The only flood problems we may see are in urbanized areas where you have a lot of pavement.”

Just the same, a spokesman for the County Fire Department said firefighters would monitor conditions at La Conchita, where nine homes were buried under a mudslide in March 1995.

“Obviously La Conchita is a concern for us,” said information officer Joe Luna. “If we get a lot of rain, it could saturate the land and create a problem out there.”

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In case of floods or mudflows in the seaside village, Luna said the department has 4,000 sandbags ready at a nearby station, located at the Seacliff offramp of the Ventura Freeway. Although the department didn’t expect flooding problems elsewhere in the county, Luna suggested that those living in flood-prone areas stock up on sandbags just in case.

A few Newbury Park shoppers Tuesday did just that. The Home Depot on North Ventu Park Road has not sold many sandbags in the last few weeks, but the 2-foot-by-3-foot nylon bags started moving Tuesday.

“I’ve been here since noon, and we’ve had four or five people come by and buy some,” said assistant store manager Mike Kerber.

The Wal-Mart in Oxnard had not yet seen a run on umbrellas Tuesday afternoon, but assistant store manager David Schramm said store employees were prepared. The store has a mobile display center for weather gear, he said.

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“It’s got your umbrellas on it, it’s got your ponchos on it and it’s got wheels,” he said. “When it’s raining, we pull it up to the front of the store, and it starts selling like crazy.”

The impending rains pose a slight threat to local strawberry growers, whose fruit has been thriving in the unusually mild weather. Heavy rain can break the berries’ skin or cause them to rot, said Scott Deardorff of the Deardorff-Jackson Co. in Oxnard.

“What we usually try to do before an expected rainstorm is try to pick as much of the fruit as we can,” he said. So for the last two days, between 50 and 60 workers have plucked berries from the fields, trying to beat the storm.

Like other growers, however, Deardorff said he would welcome the showers.

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“We’d love to get some rain--we just don’t want the day-in, day-out rain like we had last year,” he said.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

County RainfallHere are rainfall figures from the Ventura County Flood Control Department for the 24-hour period ending at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday. The county’s figures do not reflect rainfall amounts less than 0.04 inch. Oct. 1 is the beginning of the official rain year.

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Rainfall Rainfall Normal rainfall Location last 24 hours since Oct. 1 to date Camarillo 0.00 2.99 7.20 Casitas Dam 0.00 4.47 12.31 El Rio 0.00 3.23 7.86 Fillmore 0.00 2.91 9.99 Moorpark 0.00 3.39 7.77 Ojai 0.00 2.75 10.95 Upper Ojai 0.04 2.98 11.73 Oxnard 0.04 2.60 7.56 Piru 0.00 2.92 9.02 Santa Paula 0.00 3.03 9.20 Simi Valley 0.12 2.93 7.43 Thousand Oaks 0.00 3.55 7.99 Ventura Govt. Center 0.00 3.69 8.37

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