South­ern Cal­i­for­nia faces del­uge of rain, mud­flows

The Mercury News Weekend - - OTHER VIEWS - By Han­nah Fry and Hai­ley Bran­son-Potts Los An­ge­les Times

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.

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