Drenched California Shivers Through End Of Fatal Storm System

By: Kimberly Chandler Email
By: Kimberly Chandler Email

A waterlogged California shivered through the end of a weeklong storm system Monday that was being blamed for at least two fatal traffic accidents over the weekend.

Up to three inches of rain had fallen since Saturday along the Southern California coast, with rainfall reaching nearly 8 inches in some remote mountain areas, according to the National Weather Service.

The wet weather has pushed the seasonal total for Los Angeles to more than 11 inches - well past the norm of 6.5 inches at this time of year.

Snow had forced the temporary closure late Sunday of I-80, the main artery between Sacramento and Reno, Nev. A secondary road, I-50 was closed at 2 a.m. Monday after a vehicle crashed into a tree, disturbing power lines and blocking part of the road.

Both roads were reopened early Monday, officials said.

Also reopened was a nearly 130-mile stretch of Interstate 395, from just north of Bishop to the Nevada border.

Near San Diego, mud and minor rockslides prompted California Highway Patrol officials to shut Route 78 through a burn area between Ramona and Escondido.

Drenching rains, in many cases blown horizontally by gusty winds, made driving treacherous. Motorists on Highway 101 between Ventura and Los Angeles coped with hubcap-deep ponding on freeways, hydroplaning vehicles and 15-foot rooster-tail sheets of water sent over medians onto oncoming vehicles.

One person was killed and two critically injured Sunday afternoon on rain-soaked Pacific Coast Highway near Santa Cruz. On Saturday night, a 21-year-old man died after his truck flipped over onto rain-slicked Interstate 10 in the desert city of Indio.

Three skiers were killed Friday by a trio of avalanches that swept through canyons outside the trails of Mountain High ski resort at Wrightwood, northeast of Los Angeles in the San Gabriel Mountains.

Penny Dodge, a desk clerk at the mountain resort community Big Bear Lake, where winds approached 40 mph, said the storm was the worst she had seen during her seven years in the area.

"We had it all last night - the wind and the blowing," she said.

Experts said hillsides in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties charred by last year's wildfires remained at risk for landslides.

Sue Cannon of the U.S. Geological Survey's landslide hazards program said the ground has not had a chance to dry out because of back-to-back storms in recent days.

"It still is a very hazardous situation," she said.

In downtown Los Angeles, Sunday's basketball game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the L.A. Lakers was stopped for 12 minutes for what appeared to be a rain delay as a light shower of water came down from the roof of the Staples Center onto a small area near one of the baskets.

Arena spokesman Michael Roth said a roofing company that inspected the roof Sunday morning had removed their rain gear and left it with equipment on a catwalk over the north basket. The leak came from the clothing and equipment through slats in the catwalk.

Santa Anita Park racetrack in Arcadia, meanwhile, canceled horse races for the sixth day this month because of wet conditions on the synthetic track.

A total of 10,000 Pacific Gas & Electric customers from Bakersfield to the Oregon border were in the dark. About 1,600 were in the San Francisco Bay Area, a spokesman for the utility said.

Department of Water and Power officials said about 900 Los Angeles customers were in the dark early Monday. Another 700 Southern California Edison customers were without power, mostly in mountain communities.

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