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Storm floods L.A. homes, stores, freeways

January 19, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Downpours hit the L.A. area hard, inundating homes and businesses in San Pedro and flooding freeways in Long Beach.One of the hardest hit areas was San Pedro, where several feet of water rushed into homes and businesses, forcing people to pack up and save whatever they could.

The rain stopped Tuesday afternoon and the sun came out, and the intersection at Fifth Street and Pacific Avenue in San Pedro has been reopened to traffic after flood waters receded, but earlier Tuesday afternoon, it was a much different picture after a torrential downpour wreaked havoc on the city.

Tuesday's storm cell moved through San Pedro dumping excessive amounts of rain in a short period of time flooding streets, homes and even businesses in the downtown area.

"What we ended up with was standing water, people trapped in their cars, people trapped in their homes, and so with the assistance of the LAPD, we are able to come in here and pull a lot of those people out," said Asst. Chief Robert Franco of the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Residences were frantic as they tried to salvage anything they could from their houses before the rising rain water did anymore damage.

Fire officials say in some areas of San Pedro, the water rose to three feet. They are now assessing the damage to see if residents evacuated from their homes will be able to return later Tuesday night. They are also helping the affected businesses clean up the mess that Tuesday's storm left behind.

"Our weather reports are telling us that we're going to be dumped on some more, and so we are gearing up for that. We've got some swift water teams coming in. We are unifying with the Port police, the LAPD and just being ready for anything that might happen in the next few hours," said Franco.

Fire officials also say that at one point Tuesday afternoon, about 30 people were sent to an evacuation center that was set up at 828 South Mesa Street. Most of those people have found alternate places to stay with family and friends, but officials said that the Red Cross has also been called in to assist with those people who have no other place to go.

The fast moving storm is proving wild and dangerous in Long Beach as well.

Heavy rains turned intersections into virtual lakes, damaging dozens of cars and creating treacherous driving conditions.

The 710 Freeway by the Willow Street exit was ground zero for those treacherous conditions.

The flooded water, however, was receding by Tuesday evening, and the CHP opened up another lane on northbound 710, so there was a significant improvement in traffic headed northbound, but the freeway's southbound lanes had only one lane due to severe flooding.

A CHP officer who was at the scene of the flooding conducting some traffic control said that in his 20 plus years of work, he's never seen this much flooding on the freeways before.

The flooding created a huge back up and bottleneck for commuters. The peak of the flooding was around 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Cal Trans arrived at the scene at approximately 4:30 p.m. and started clearing storm drains and pumping water away from the flood.

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