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Storm prompts evacuations, key road closures

March 20, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Sunday marked the first day of spring, but winter-like weather brought rain, wind and even snow to Southern California.

The leading edge of the weather system slowly moved in toward Pasadena and Los Angeles on Sunday morning. Most of the rain maker was concentrated in the north in Castaic toward Frazier Park.

The torrent of rain prompted the evacuation of several residents in Woodland Hills as debris and mud approached a retaining wall in the area, officials with the Los Angeles Fire Department said.

Evacuations began about 7 p.m. near 4855 N. Regalo Rd., where the retaining wall is located. As of 11:45 p.m., three families from homes on that street remained evacuated. It was unclear how long they would have to stay away.

Families were relocated to an evacuation center at Fire Station 84 at 21050 Burbank Blvd. in Los Angeles.

No injuries or other major problems were reported.

The National Weather Service warned of flooding in western parts of the Los Angeles Basin and rockslides in the Santa Monica Mountains and Malibu Hills.

Earlier in the day, people running in the Los Angeles Marathon endured overcast and breezy conditions with temperatures in the low 60s. Some runners donned ponchos over their running gear as they took off from Dodgers Stadium and headed toward the finish line in downtown Santa Monica.

Heavy rain cells were seen over Simi Valley with rain falling at about a quarter-inch per hour. Santa Barbara was hit hard with 2.25 inches of rain recorded over night and into Sunday morning.

The storm is being fed by southern winds ranging from 20 to 40 mph, which will enhance rainfall totals for much of Southern California.

A flash flood watch was in effect for Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties as well as the burn areas affected by past wild fires. The National Weather Service warned of possible flooding and debris flow with isolated thunder storms and rainfall rates ranging from .5 to 1 inch per hour. The watch was expected to expire sometime Monday morning.

A rainfall rate of about a half-inch per hour is expected for the valleys, beaches and foothill areas. The storm is expected to accumulate about 2 to 4 inches of rain in the coastal regions and the valleys and 4 to 7 inches in the foothills.

Wind speed was expected to reach up to a staggering 99 mph toward Central California near the Vandenberg area, 55 mph near Lake Palmdale and 44 mph near the Newhall Pass.

For the local mountains, the spring storm promised to be a big snow maker, with the snow level expected to drop to 4,000 feet by Sunday night and a snow total of 1 to 2 feet for areas under 5,000 feet. The National Weather Service warned of strong southern winds gusting up to 50 mph in some areas.

A winter storm warning was in effect for areas above 6,000 feet and expected to last until 5 a.m. Monday.

A Mountain High Resort spokesperson said the area has received 3 inches of fresh snow by Sunday morning and more than 1 foot was expected by Monday.

In the Los Angeles Metro area and Orange County, rain was expected to continue from Sunday into Monday morning with a clearing Monday afternoon into Tuesday. A 40 percent chance of rain was forecasted for Wednesday with about a half-inch accumulation.

Overnight rain totals saw .55 inches at the Clear Creek ranger station north of Altadena, .45 inches at Del Valle, .36 inches at La Canada-Flintridge and .31 inches at Duarte.

The valleys and Inland Empire were expected to get heavier rain with 3 to 4 inches of rainfall on Sunday continuing into Monday with a break on Tuesday.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Works closed roads due to dangerous driving conditions.

List of road closures

  • Southbound lanes of Interstate 5 along the Grapevine
  • Northbound lanes of Interstate 5 at Parker Road
  • Topanga Canyon Boulevard from Pacific Coast Highway to Circle Trail
  • Angeles Forest Highway from Aliso Canyon Road to Angeles Crest Highway
  • Big Tujunga Canyon Road from the Los Angeles city limits to Angeles
  • Forest Highway and to the Angeles Crest Highway
  • Upper Big Tujunga Road from Angeles Forest Highway to Angeles Crest Highway

Also, Burbank Boulevard between Encino Avenue and Van Nuys Boulevard and Woodley Avenue near Lake Balboa near the Sepulveda Basin were closed midday Sunday due to accumulating storm water.

The roads were slated to reopen once the storm passes.

Chains were required on the Big Pines Highway, county road N-2, above the 6,000-foot elevation between Wrightwood and Pearblossom. But freeway passes along Interstates 5 and 15, and state Route 14, remained wet but not icy, reported the California Highway Patrol.

City News Service contributed to this report.