Mudslides and flash floods: Rain brings California little relief

Clean up crews have been working since late Thursday to shovel up to five feet of mud off of Interstate 5, north of Los Angeles.

Caltrans/AP
Vehicles are stopped in mud on California's Interstate-5 after flooding Thursday.

When it rains it pours – at least in California. 

Thursday, a flash food carried debris and mud onto Interstate 5, north of Los Angeles, blocking traffic and stranding hundreds of motorists.

Fort Tejon, roughly 75 miles north of downtown Los Angeles, flooded after heavy storms brought rainfall to the region. No deaths or injuries were reported. Up to five feet of mud covered the northbound lanes, backing up thousands of vehicles.

Clean up on the Interstate began later Thursday and continued into the night. Clean up is expected to continue into Friday as well, with emergency crews shoveling mud and debris off the road. At least 15 cars needed to be towed.

Lake Hughes, a mountainside community in northern Los Angeles, was likewise hard hit by the storm. Residents were arriving home from work when the storm reached the area.

Robert Rocha experienced the storm near Lake Hughes, Thursday.

“I've never seen it rain that hard in such a short period of time, the hail and wind — it was coming down hard," he said to the Associated Press. "The debris was just intense — chunks of wood and rock flowing everywhere." 

A second highway, State Route 58 in Kern County, and several back roads were left impassible by separate mudslides.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department reported rescuing 14 people and eight animals. As the water and mud surged around cars, some had to wait on top of their cars for help.

“They were able to use their vehicles as a security blanket, to stand on top of stay higher than the water,” Capt. Keith Mora of the Los Angeles County Fire Department told the AP.

The agency will go house to house Friday morning to check on residents. Officials have not said when the Interstate and other highway will be opened, as the lanes need to be cleared and a geologists needs to check nearby slopes for stability.

The heavy storm was a symptom of a low pressure system that has been causing severe weather across much of southwestern California. Rainfall reached 1.45 inches in a short span of time during the sudden flash floods.

Meteorologist Joe Sirard of the National Weather Service told the AP the low pressure system is expected to shift east Friday. 

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