Newsletter: Essential California: Mudslides offer a possible winter preview

A car was caught in a mudflow on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu Thursday morning after rain showers doused the Southland.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, Dec. 7, and here’s what’s happening across California:


After years of drought conditions, a storm like the one that hit the Southland this week would typically be welcomed. But unprecedented fires over the last year have left hillsides from Montecito to Lake Elsinore highly vulnerable to mudslides during heavy rains. So the deluge brought more than the usual dangers and offered a preview of the tense times ahead if there are more powerful winter storms. Los Angeles Times

— On Wednesday, the National Weather Service predicted light rain and said the chance of mudslides and debris flows was expected to be “minimal to none.” But the storm ended up being much larger and more dangerous. Here’s why the forecast was so wrong. Los Angeles Times


— Snow closes a freeway. A Southwest jet skids off the runway. Mud covers roads. A rare rain day in L.A. Los Angeles Times

— Perhaps author John McPhee said it best. The New Yorker

Awards season madness

Comedian Kevin Hart has stepped down as host of the 2019 Oscars after claiming he was pressured by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to apologize for past homophobic comments. He’d been named as host on Tuesday. Los Angeles Times

— Offering the first major indication of where this year’s Oscar-season winds may be blowing, the Golden Globe Award nominations announced Thursday delivered a series of surprises that portend an unpredictable race to come. Among the nominees: “Vice,” “A Star is Born” and “Roma.” Among the losers: “Widows” and “First Man.” Los Angeles Times

— Will this awards season be a replay of the Bush years? Los Angeles Times


-- And the Grammys get into the nominations act this morning. Los Angeles Times

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Fifty-four names: For the first time in a decade, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has updated its list of clergy accused of molesting children, addressing renewed outcry about how the Catholic Church responds to abuse allegations. But victims advocates say it’s not enough. Los Angeles Times

Green Line, green light: Los Angeles County transportation officials temporarily preserved a one-seat ride for South Bay Metro riders along much of the Green Line after weeks of controversy over how the aging line should be connected to a new Metro rail project under construction in South Los Angeles. Los Angeles Times


Cough, cough: The Trump administration’s plan to roll back vehicle fuel economy standards is based on a flawed and misleading analysis, a team of economists and other independent experts found. Los Angeles Times

Touching story: Three people died in the Woolsey fire in L.A. and Ventura counties. But many more cremated remains of loved ones were lost when the fire burned homes. Now, a pair of dogs is helping families recover the remains from the ruins. Los Angeles Times

A search dog named Jasper sniffs through the rubble of Shepha Schneirsohn Vainstein’s home looking for Vainstein’s mother’s cremated remains.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

— A group of Paradise residents has returned to nothing but misery. “We have to rebuild,” one victim declared. “There’s too many memories of my husband here.” Los Angeles Times

— More questions about PG&E’s conduct in the Camp fire. San Francisco Chronicle

— The number of missing people in the Camp fire is down to only 10. Chico Enterprise-Record


Judge’s ruling: Taxpayers will have to pay for the defense of the Golden State Killer suspect. Sacramento Bee


Helping or hurting? Inside the small collective of volunteers behind the migrant caravan trend. Pueblo Sin Fronteras says the caravans help protect migrants from rape, kidnapping and other perils while drawing attention to the reasons they flee and their treatment on the journey north. But the group has drawn considerable criticism. Los Angeles Times

Another consequence: Of the more than 90,000 people who cross the San Ysidro border daily, many are students. They live in Mexico and attend schools — both public and private — in San Diego County. If the border were to be closed again, they could be cut off from their education. San Diego Union-Tribune


Stepping down: Larry Wallace, a top aide to Sen. Kamala Harris, resigned after it was revealed that the California Department of Justice paid $400,000 last year to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit stemming from his time at the state agency. Los Angeles Times

Plus: Harris denies any knowledge of the allegations. Sacramento Bee

The concession: Another blow to the California GOP. New York Times

Unusual: Questions about who was playing the GOP challenger who ran against Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters. Daily Breeze


Looking back: California had its own Ellis Island, a forgotten piece of our immigrant history. Los Angeles Review of Books

Only in Silicon Valley: A “Star Wars” by way of “Star Trek” house. Wall Street Journal

Surprise! It turns out turning the most egalitarian restaurant in L.A. history into a fancy eatery was an impossible sell. So what’s next for Clifton’s Cafeteria? LAist

Oh, by gosh, by golly: In L.A., a Christmas cactus is a real thing. “They can fit in even the smallest space, require far less of our precious water reserves, and after Christmas you can simply take off the decorations and continue to enjoy your awesome potted plant.” Los Angeles Magazine


Los Angeles area: sunny, 68, Friday; sunny, 69, Saturday. San Diego: sunny, 67, Friday and Saturday. San Francisco area: partly cloudy, 59, Friday and Saturday. San Jose: sunny, 63, Friday; mostly sunny, 62, Saturday. Sacramento: partly cloudy, 58, Friday and Saturday. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Randolph Hall:

“I remember my dad got a military uniform (he was too old to get in the military). It was just after Pearl Harbor, and a whole patrol of 15 or 20 men were enlisted as a civilian militia with a .22 strapped on their backs as they rode bicycles throughout our North Hollywood neighborhood. They expected an invasion from Japan.”

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. Send us an email to let us know what you love or fondly remember about our state. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to Benjamin Oreskes and Shelby Grad. Also follow them on Twitter @boreskes and @shelbygrad.