Crashes on Southern California’s wet roads Saturday morning jumped nearly sixfold compared to the same time last weekend when the roads were dry.
The California Highway Patrol recorded 315 crashes on Southern California freeways between 12:01 a.m. and 9 a.m. on Saturday, compared with 55 crashes in the same period a week ago.
The bulk of the crashes - about 280 - occurred in the last four hours from dawn to 9 a.m., when the showers hit, the CHP said.
"There’s a misconception that the rain causes these crashes," said CHP Officer Francisco Villalobos. "It’s not the rain, it’s the way people are driving in the rain."
He blamed motorists driving too fast for the road conditions.
"You can’t drive the same speed as you can on a dry roadway, especially with the first rain of the season," Villalobos said.
Most of the crashes occurred on bends in freeway roads such as on-ramps, off-ramps and transitions, Villalobos said. Vehicles across Los Angeles County either spun out or hit guard rails on the bends, he said.
Several freeways were blocked by surface flooding, crashed cars and trucks, or combinations of problems.
The multilevel interchange of the 210, 134 and 710 freeways in Pasadena was snarled in several directions by flooding or wrecks.
Westbound 210 lanes were blocked for four hours by a big rig that jackknifed before dawn.
And the tunnel that brings the eastbound 210 through the interchange was expected to be closed until 1 p.m. by wreckage from a multicar pileup.
At least three separate crashes occurred over two hours at the 101-405 interchange in the San Fernando Valley. And the southbound 5 truck lanes in the Newhall Pass were closed all morning by a spilled truckload of oranges that had to be scooped up with heavy machinery.
Dozens of other ramps and transition roads, from Castaic to Santa Fe Springs, were blocked by wrecked cars and trucks, or fire trucks. The CHP reported 75 crashes by 5 a.m., up from the 30 wrecks in the same period last week, according to the CHP.
In Los Angeles, about 6,500 Department of Water and Power accounts were in the dark before dawn, the result of various storm-related mishaps. A crash at Nordhoff Street and Sepulveda Boulevard caused a transformer fire that blacked out much of the North Hills, said DWP spokeswoman MaryAnne Pierson.
About 741 properties were blacked out in Beverly Hills, 100 in downtown Santa Monica, and an unknown number in western Malibu, where wires were down near Zuma Beach, said Southern California Edison spokesman Scott Andresen.
Authorities advised motorists driving in the rain to leave extra space between their vehicles, to allow for more time to react to or avoid potential collisions.
Southern California has been parched all winter, receiving only an inch of rain in November and not a drop since mid-December, according to the National Weather Service. L.A. already received 10 inches of rain by that time last year.
Dec. 2011 was markedly drier in the Southland than the year before, receiving only 10 to 30 percent of its normal rainfall for the month; whereas Dec. 2010 saw three to six times as as much the normal precipitation.
Oil that has seeped into the roadways has yet to be washed away, making for more dangerous conditions, Villalobos said.