Winter Storm Brings Heavy Rain to Region, Mudslides to Fire Burn Areas

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Showers continued falling in parts of the Southland today following a night that saw steady downpours saturate roadways and hillsides, prompting mudslides from Azusa to Orange County, but the rain is expected to taper off as the day wears on.

According to the National Weather Service, more than 2 inches of rain had fallen in the Culver City area of 10 a.m., with about 1.5 inches falling downtown and just under 2 inches in East Pasadena and much of the San Gabriel Valley. Some mountain areas saw more than 2 inches of rain.

Nearly two feet of snow fell at Mount Baldy, with an elevation of about 6,500 feet, while Mount Wilson saw 7 inches.

“Showers will continue through the afternoon with isolated thunderstorms and brief heavy downpours and small hail,'' according to the NWS. “Rain rates are expected to remain below critical thresholds for debris flows. The snow levels have fallen to as low as 3,500 feet with light accumulations expected above 4,000 feet.''

Forecasters noted that conditions will dry out through the weekend, but another storm system could arrive by Tuesday.

In the meantime, however, the remnants of the storm system kept the Southland wet. With lightning spotted off the coast, Los Angeles County lifeguards closed beaches from Zuma to Marina del Rey Friday morning.

Officials at Los Angeles International Airport warned travelers of potential delays due to thunderstorms.

In Azusa, a motorist managed to escape injury when a portion of a rain-soaked hillside slid down to Highway 39, pushing his car across the roadway and toward a cliff.

Azusa police closed the roadway to all traffic at Old San Gabriel Canyon Road so crews could remove the muck from the roadway.

In Orange County, multiple mudslides near the Silverado Canyon burn areas covered a road out of the canyon, keeping at least two television news crews from being able to leave the area.

The slide along Silverado Canyon Road, near Sycamore Drive and Rancho Way, and close to the Silverado and Bond fire burn scars, was first reported about 11 p.m. Thursday by Fox11.

Fox11 reporter Bill Melugin tweeted about 11:45 p.m., “We are currently trapped, but perfectly fine. Roads are impassible from multiple mudflows. Bulldozers on scene trying to clear it. Residents out in streets concerned about stability of other hills near their homes.''

Mud covered the road about a mile from the Orange County Fire Authority station in the canyon about 11:40 p.m., NBC4 reported. A news van from the station was unable to leave until crews using bulldozers cleared the roadway.

At least one home was evacuated.

Around 7:30 a.m., the OCFA tweeted, “Bond fire burn scare: Moderate mud and debris flow overnight, @OCpublicworks worked through the night to clear the roads. Stay vigilant, the hills are saturated and there is still a high likelihood of mud slides.''

A flash flood watch will be in effect for most of Orange County through 4 p.m. Friday. Forecasters said heavy rain was expected Friday morning and included a chance of thunderstorms and rain rates topping a half-inch per hour.

The Orange County Sheriff's Department on Thursday morning issued voluntary evacuation warnings for residents in Silverado, Williams and Modjeska canyons, noting the potential for “heavy rain, subsequent flooding and debris flows'' in the recent Bond Fire burn area.

The areas under an evacuation warning were “remote'' with “one way in and one way out,'' so authorities are concerned about traffic jams at the last minute and “impassible'' roads, which would mean “essentially you're stuck,'' department spokeswoman Carrie Braun said.

The evacuation warnings affect 2,000 to 3,000 Orange County residents, Braun said.

Santiago Canyon road was opened only to residents east of the 241/261 interchange, and north of Ridgeline Road.

The Red Cross opened a “temporary evacuation point'' at El Modena High School, 3920 E. Spring St. in Orange, to offer resources to evacuees, such as snacks and information on available hotels and lodging.

A winter storm warning will be in effect until 3 p.m. in the Los Angeles County mountains.

A flash flood watch for the Los Angeles County burn areas was allowed to expire about 4:45 a.m.

On Thursday night, the Los Angeles Police Department reported that there had been more than 50 crashes on Los Angeles-area freeways as the rain came down.

Photo: Getty Images

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