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Highway 58 and other L.A. County roads still closed after massive mudflows

Highway 58 and other L.A. County roads still closed after massive mudflows
A pickup truck dangles from a hoist after being extracted from mud-covered Highway 58 east of Tehachapi on Saturday morning. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

A nearly eight-mile section of Highway 58 east of Tehachapi remained closed Saturday as crews worked to clear debris and remove stranded vehicles after a storm turned the roadway into a river of mud this week, officials said.

At one point, nearly 200 vehicles, including two tour buses filled with passengers, were trapped on the highway after the massive mudflows began on Thursday. In some cases, motorists were stranded overnight.

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"At this point, every person is out of their vehicle," said Darlene Doston, a public information officer for the California Highway Patrol.

Residents in the area can use Tehachapi Willow Springs Road to get around the affected areas of Highway 58, Dotson said.

The storm that produced the flows was described as a 1,000-year event by meteorologists and was the product of a slow-moving low-pressure system. It brought as much as 1.81 inches of rain in 30 minutes to part of the Antelope Valley.

Some roads in the Lake Elizabeth area remained closed, according to Los Angeles County sheriff's officials. Vehicles and homes in that area were also affected by the storm and resulting mudslides.

Wendy Deberge, a retired nurse who lives on Ellstree Drive in Lake Hughes, said she tried to scoop up mud when it started to approach her front door around 2 p.m. on Thursday.

"But there was nothing we could do," she said.

On Saturday, her house and backyard were covered by about 3 feet of wet earth. "Thank God I'm alive," she said.

County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich has said he will ask county leaders to declare a state of emergency around the Lake Elizabeth area.

A flash-flood warning is still in effect in areas of the high desert and around Lake Elizabeth, but there is enough wind to make it unlikely that much rainfall would be concentrated in one spot.

"If a storm develops, it won't stay over the area long," said John Dumas, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Twitter: @byjsong

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