Evacuations ordered as storms pound Southern California

Around 800 homes in the Los Angeles area were issued evacuation orders as the fourth storm to hit the region this week arrived Thursday, causing power outages and chaos for drivers. Heavy rain is unusual in this area.

Steve Gorman / Reuters
Sandbags line the perimeter of a home as rain continues to fall in La Canada, California near Los Angeles Thursday.

Long-time resident Sal Kalil says he’s never seen it rain so hard here in this hillside community just about a mile from where fires claimed 42,500 acres of chaparral and 12,000 homes in September.

“I waited 15 minutes for the water to die down before I got out of my truck,” says Mr. Kalil, a construction worker, who says the water was filling his street as he drove home about 2 p.m. Thursday. The concern now, with vegetation gone, is mudslides.

“I would say residents are concerned but by no means edgy,” says Kalil.

Around 800 homes in the hilly suburbs surrounding Los Angeles area have been issued evacuation orders as the fourth storm to hit the region this week arrived Thursday, causing power outages and chaos for drivers. Officials warned of flash floods and mudslides in areas ravaged by last year's wildfires.

Thursday's storm could produce from 1 to 2 inches of rain in coastal and valley areas and 2 to 4 inches in the foothills and mountains, said the National Weather Service. Scattered thunderstorms could occur and become severe, possibly generating waterspouts, small tornadoes, and 97 km winds, according to an National Weather Service advisory.

Around 3000 homes in Los Angeles were left without power after electricity was knocked out late on Wednesday, the Department of Water and Power said.

Rain is so rare in Los Angeles that even mild rainstorms lead the nightly local news. The buildup of oil and grease on Southern California freeways – without the regular flushing away of such residue that is normal in other parts of the country – makes driving more difficult as cars more often slide left and right. Fender benders stall traffic, adding to commute times and often doubling evening and morning rush hours.

Whipping winds have added to the chaos. “I had one small umbrella in my car and the wind took that when I opened the car door,” said Mike Demos, a Sherman Oaks resident. “I had to make a dash for it into the house, my shoe got sucked off in the flash flood on my driveway.”

Los Angeles streets, from San Pedro in the South to Sunland inland and to the north, are flooded. And the afternoon commute turned into a nightmare when portions of the 405 and 710 freeways were inundated by several feet of water, stranding several cars. The Grapevine – a freeway passage leading from the

Tehachapi mountains into California’s great central valley – was closed for much of Wednesday because of snow.

Lightning struck two Southwest Airlines Boeing 737s before they landed safely at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank. Both were taken out of service to check for possible damage, according to news reports.

The back-to-back-to-back rainstorms have dropped more than 3 inches of rain on downtown Los Angeles and more than 5 inches in Long Beach since Sunday. The precipitation has pushed L.A. into an above-average rainfall total for this time of year.

Those numbers are sure to rise when the new storm hits the region around midmorning today. Forecasters said the storm will bring sustained rainfall for about six hours before tapering off late today. Another less powerful storm will arrive Friday, they say.


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