Temporary Barriers to Line Stretch of LA River With More El Niño-Driven Storms Ahead

Sunny skies returned to most of Southern California, but a strong El Niño bring the potential for severe weather throughout winter

The U.S.  Army Corps of Engineers will install temporary barriers along a nearly three-mile stretch of the Los Angeles River near Griffith Park to ensure it won't overflow during El Niño-driven storms, it was announced Friday.

The local district of the Corps of Engineers will also begin removing  vegetation that could impede the flow of storm water in the river, which sprang to life during this week's winter storms, near  Riverside Drive and the Zoo Bridge. The project will be supported with $3.1 million in federal funds, Mayor Eric Garcetti said Friday.

The announcement comes after a week of storms that pounded Southern California, flooding streets and triggering landslides. Downpours led to heavy flooding Wednesday in the north San Fernando Valley along the 5 Freeway.

The county Board of Supervisors sent a letter to Congress and the Corps  of Engineers earlier this week to request the funding for storm preparation. Installation of the 4-foot-tall barriers -- effectively raising the side walls of  the river to increase its capacity -- will begin next week in an area between  Griffith Park and Elysian Valley.

Most of Southern California saw sunny skies again Thursday after days of powerful storms. The last major storm expected this week lashed coastal areas of California, stirring waves as high as 16 feet and flooding some low-lying streets, before turning east toward Nevada and Arizona.

For months, Californians watched El Niño -- a natural warming in the Pacific Ocean that interacts with the atmosphere -- grow stronger and waited for the skies to open up and take the edge off four years of drought. Los Angeles County captured 3.2 billion gallons during this week's storms as of Thursday afternoon, largely through 27 holding ponds, said Steven Frasher, a spokesman for the public works department. Water from the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers flowed into fields that percolate into aquifers for future pumping.

But with the benefits of some drought relief came the threat of flooding -- a concern that will likely plague Southern California throughout the winter as it has in the past. In 1938, catastrophic flood in February overwhelmed Los Angeles and led to calls for a network of flood control dams and concrete channels.


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This week's storms stalled traffic, closed schools and toppled trees. Many residents of foothill areas where wildfires had destroyed vegetation and created the danger of mudslides voluntarily evacuated until the rain had passed.

California and other areas were expected to begin drying out Friday before another round of light rain moved in over the weekend. More El Niño-influenced storms have been forecast over the coming months.

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