Southern California faces deluge of rain, mudflows
LOS ANGELES » Southern California was pounded by a fierce winter storm Thursday that dumped up to 2 inches of rain in some areas, unleashing mud and debris flows in Malibu and creating dangerous conditions in numerous areas burned in recent wildfires.
The storm dropped enough snow on the Grapevine to close Interstate 5, flooded other roads, caused a jetliner to skid off the runway at Burbank’s airport and prompted officials in Orange County to issue a voluntary evacuation warning in an area burned by this summer’s Holy Fire.
Unprecedented fires across the Southland over the last year have left hillsides from Montecito to Lake Elsinore highly vulnerable to mudslides during heavy rains, and Thursday’s storm was intense enough to send mud and debris sliding.
The unexpected deluge prompted the National Weather Service to issue a flood advisory warning of additional mudslides in the Los Angeles County area recently devastated by the Woolsey Fire. The weather service also put a flash flood watch in place through Thursday evening for the Holy Fire burn area.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department issued a voluntary evacuation warning for homes in Trabuco Creek, Rose Canyon and the Mystic Oaks and El Cariso areas after the weather service warned that heavy showers likely will drop half an inch of rain per hour on the region, which could trigger debris flows. Rainfall totals were expected to reach up to 2 inches over the burn area in Orange County by midnight.
Mudflows weren’t the only headache for people as rain hammered the region. Travelers faced significant delays at Hollywood Burbank Airport after a Southwest Airlines plane arriving from Oakland rolled off the end of the runway during the storm. No one was hurt in the mishap.
Officials said no injuries or damage to homes in Malibu had been reported following the mudslides, but the debris flows created a mess on local roadways, including Pacific Coast Highway, which was closed for several hours from Busch Drive to the Ventura County line.
Mudslides also forced officials to close Encinal Canyon Road between Pacific Coast Highway and the 101 Freeway. Drivers wove around boulders placed like slalom markers on Kanan Road following a mudslide in the area as a torrent of water raged past nearby homes on Busch Drive.
Eric Menjivar, a spokesman for Caltrans, said road crews were dealing with a slew of issues: mudflows, snow in the Grapevine, flooding and car accidents just about everywhere else.
Interstate 5 in the Grapevine was shut down after snow blanketed the mountainous area. About two dozen commercial trucks got stuck and had to be towed off the roadway.
Caltrans crews, in the midst of what they call “Operation Snowflake,” were using snowplows to try to clear the roadway.
A Malibu public works crew clears a culvert Thursday that overflowed with mud and debris on Cuthbert Road in an area burned by the Woolsey Fire.