Mudslides, flooded freeways and dangerous driving conditions plagued the Southland Thursday thanks to a second straight day of rain, prompting road closures, mandatory evacuation orders in Orange County and fears that the situation could get much worse before the storm moves out.
As of midday, no evacuation orders had been issued in the Malibu area, the scene of the recent Woolsey Fire that now has residents on the lookout for mud and debris flows.
A mudslide during the morning commute inundated a stretch of Pacific Coast Highway near Leo Carrillo State Beach, forcing a full closure of the heavily traveled roadway clear north to Ventura County. Crews had the bulk of the mud cleared by midday, and the road was reopened.
In Orange County, voluntary evacuation orders were issued Thursday morning for select neighborhoods near the Holy Fire, affecting the Trabuco Creek, Rose Canyon and Mystic Oaks/El Cariso areas. By early afternoon, however, the evacuation order was elevated to mandatory for Trabuco Creek, and residents in Rose Canyon were asked to shelter in place due to road closures at Trabuco Canyon Road at Rose Canyon and Plano Trabuco Road, according to Carrie Braun of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
The rain storm was proving to be more powerful than forecasters anticipated. The National Weather Service indicated earlier that while roads in the northern reaches of the county might be slippery, they did not anticipate major problems along the Grapevine. But by late morning, the Grapevine had been shut down in both directions due to snow, creating a miles-long backup of hundreds of stranded vehicles, with nowhere to escape the jam.
In Santa Clarita, sheriff’s deputies and county firefighters responded had to help residents safely evacuate two homes that were affected by flooding around 9:30 a.m. in the 17800 block of Sierra Highway. The downpour also prompted a temporary closure of Sierra Highway in the area, but the water had subsided by late morning and lanes were reopened.
In Sun Valley, rainwater flooded a stretch of the Golden State (5) Freeway. All southbound lanes of the freeway were closed at Sheldon Street, and the Lankershim Boulevard, Sunland and Penrose onramps were shut down. Traffic was being diverted onto the Hollywood (170) Freeway.
At Hollywood Burbank Airport, a Southwest airliner skidded off the slick runway while landing, forcing a temporary ground-stop of all flights heading to the airport. No injuries were reported, but passengers reported a harrowing flight.
I knew that it was raining, but I was just working as we landed, one passenger told ABC7. “We hit pretty hard, and you could see a lot of water coming up. I noticed the plane was hydroplaning — went kind of diagonal to almost sideways. Mud started hitting the windows very heavily to where you couldn’t see out of it.”
Orange County was hit with a strong rain cell by late morning, prompting a wave of flooding reports. Garden Grove police shut down northbound Magnolia Street between Imperial and Garden Grove Boulevard due to flooding. Rain water also inundated the intersection of Garden Grove Boulevard and Fairview.
Flooding was also reported off the 55 Freeway at Fourth Street in Tustin, with several vehicles trapped. Flash flooding was also reported in portions of Orange. Major flooding was also reported in Balboa Island in Newport Beach.
Many drivers in Orange County were found themselves stuck in flooded streets, but no one has been hurt, said Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Tony Bommarito.
“We’ve got calls all over the place with flooding trapping people in cars, but no injuries reported,” he said. “We have multiple cars stalling in intersections. We’re telling people if you can stay indoors then stay indoors and wait till the rain subsides. Right now the drains can’t keep up. Public works is doing their best to clear the drains right now, but there’s been too much water coming down.”
A flash flood warning will remain in effect until 2:15 p.m. in Orange County, most likely affecting Anaheim, Santa Ana, Irvine, Huntington Beach, Garden Grove, Orange, Fullerton, Costa Mesa and Tustin, according to the National Weather Service.
Forecasters noted that around midday, the area had been hit with more than an inch of rain in an hour, raising the threat of debris flows near the Canyon and Canyon 2 fire areas.
A less serious flood advisory was in effect for Los Angeles County until 1:45 p.m. NWS officials said heavy rain was possible in areas such as Diamond Bar, Pomona, La Verne, Glendora, West Covina and Mount Wilson, but also in Long Beach, Palmdale, Hollywood, Van Nuys, Culver City and Torrance.
The rain made for a challenging morning commute, as was the case Wednesday, when, according to the California Highway Patrol, there were 119 accidents reported on Los Angeles County freeways between 5 and 10 a.m., compared to 93 under dry conditions a week earlier. Forecasters said motorists must be particularly vigilant on canyon roads.
Forecasters noted that showers were expected to continue throughout the afternoon, along with the chance of thunderstorms in some areas. The rain will likely continue into the evening, but taper off by Friday morning, according to the NWS.