Winter storm hits California, evacuations ordered for areas devastated by January mudslides

But the National Weather Service says a bigger impact will be felt by lower communities like Foresthill, at 3,228 feet elevation, and Dutch Flat, at 3,144.

Heavy snow is expected, with total snow accumulations of 18 to 30 inches, and localized amounts up to 48 inches above 7,000 feet.

Interstate 80 was closed in both directions through California's Sierra Nevada because of whiteout conditions on Thursday.

A winter storm warning is in effect for northern California from 4 p.m. today through 10 p.m. on Saturday. If you must travel, keep an extra flashlight, food and water in your vehicle in case of an emergency.

In Southern California, authorities have recommended evacuations in some communities on the south Santa Barbara County coast, where Montecito was hit by deadly storm flows in January.

The snow should stop falling in the mountains by late Saturday.

People can not be forced to leave their homes under a mandatory evacuation order, but authorities said they should not be expected to be rescued while the storm event is occurring.

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"Our intention is to make sure that you have a plan, that you are prepared, and that you are safe", said Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown, who warned people not to be lulled into a false sense of security because midweek weather was calm. Twenty-one people were killed and two remain missing. Other areas impacted by the order are Goleta, Santa Barbara, Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria.

Geologists estimate that the scorched earth won't grow vegetation for three to five years, meaning every time a major storm moves into the area, residents may be asked or ordered to evacuate.

The storm system also brought strong winds which were blamed for dozens of accidents Thursday on Bay Area roads, the California Highway Patrol told the Associated Press.

People with mobility issues or those with large animals should get out now, officials said.

Forecasters say the cold front will bring snow to the foothill areas of the Sierra as low as 3,500 feet (1,066 meters) before moving south.

Meanwhile predictions of widespread showers across the southern end of the state early Friday are raising concern about flash flooding near wildfire burn scars.

The National Weather Service in Reno warned of "dangerous and potentially life threatening blizzard conditions" in the Lake Tahoe area. He says evacuations are recommended in and around Montecito, where 21 people died in a massive mudslide in January.

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