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Storm Leaves Behind Rockfalls and Mudslides With More Rain in the Forecast

The mudslide risk remained after a strong Pacific storm moved out of California

What to Know

  • Topanga Canyon Boulevard remains closed in the Santa Monica Mountains
  • More rain is possible Friday afternoon as the cleanup continues around California
  • A deluge southeast of Los Angeles washed away a section of a two-lane mountain highway

A boulder about the size of a washing machine tumbled onto Topanga Canyon Boulevard Wednesday afternoon, forcing one of several road closures in Southern California during a day of steady rain.

Dry conditions Friday morning offer cleanup crews an opportunity to clear debris before another round or rain during the evening. The next storm isn't expected to produce the downpours that resulted in havoc Thursday on canyon roads and freeways.

Topanga Canyon Boulevard in the Santa Monica Mountains was closed early Thursday between Grand View Drive and Pacific Coast Highway when a portion of hillside spilled onto the road. The closure was extended into Friday, due in part to a large rock that fell onto the narrow curving road.

It's expected to remain closed into the weekend.

A deluge southeast of Los Angeles washed away a section of a two-lane mountain highway. Photos by the state Department of Transportation showed about 75 feet of pavement completely collapsed along State Route 243 near the remote community of Idyllwild.

"We're basically stranded right now," said resident Gary Agner, adding that several other roads were closed because of flooding and debris. "I'm glad I went to the grocery store yesterday."

The risk of flooding led officials to order people out of areas burned bare by a summer wildfire in the Santa Ana Mountains, with flash-flood warnings blanketing a huge swath east and south of Los Angeles. The evacuation orders were downgraded to flood warnings Thursday night.

Authorities also told parts of Laguna Beach to evacuate for much of the day, while the desert resort city of Palm Springs urged residents to stay in place because of flooded streets. In Cabazon, two people marooned on the roof of their flooded car were rescued by helicopter.


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A woman pulled from rising water in a low-lying area between those mountains and Los Angeles had a heart attack and died at a hospital, said Capt. Ryan Rolston with the Corona Fire Department. The woman, identified Friday as 20-year-old Stacie Mills-Nichols from Riverside, was one of nine people and three dogs rescued in a flood-control channel where homeless people camp, Rolston said.

A second death was reported in Escondido, northeast of San Diego, where firefighters recovered the body of a man who had been seen paddle boarding in the surging waters of a concrete-lined flood-control channel.

North of San Francisco, a mudslide barreled over cars, uprooted trees and sent a home sliding down a hill and smashing into another house in Sausalito. A woman was rescued from the splintered wreckage with only cuts and bruises. Susan Gordon was buried under a tree and mud for two hours while crews dug her out, her son wrote on an online fundraising page.

Chris Parkman said it has been years since a storm so powerful has hit the hillside community, where at least 50 properties were evacuated.

"We don't see the rain most of the year. So most of the year you feel safe. But when the big storms come, your safety factor is gone," he said.

Farther north, a levee along State Route 37 near Novato was breached, flooding a rural field. Officials were monitoring the area in case water flows onto the highway or train tracks.

Weather was so severe that the Hollywood Walk of Fame had to postpone the dedication of a sidewalk star honoring the band Aerosmith. Knott's Berry Farm and Six Flags Magic Mountain theme parks closed.

Nearly 37 percent of California had no level of drought or abnormal dryness, the U.S. Drought Monitor reported Thursday. About 10.5 percent of the state was in moderate drought, and just over 1.6 percent was in severe drought. The remainder was in the abnormally dry category. The numbers reflect data gathered up to Tuesday.

Atmospheric rivers are long bands of water vapor that form over an ocean and flow through the sky. Formed by winds associated with storms, they occur globally but are especially significant on the West Coast.

The rain mostly ended Thursday night. But officials said hillsides could still loosen and collapse, bringing down mud, boulders and debris.

"The ground is still so saturated and the water is still flowing down from the mountains," said April Newman, spokeswoman for Riverside County Fire Department.

There were staggering rainfall amounts across California, including more than 9.4 inches over 48 hours at one location in the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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