Rain Fouls Freeways, Heads Out of Town

Times Staff Writer

Rain arrived on schedule to trigger more than a few Southland freeway collisions and truck spin-outs Thursday, but the forecasters said it should be pretty well gone by this afternoon.

After a few showers this morning, they predicted, skies should clear and turn sunny on Saturday.

"You should have a good weekend," said meteorologist Pat Cooper of WeatherData Inc., which provides forecasts for The Times.

She saw, however, a "chance of rain" again by Tuesday.

What California Highway Patrol Officer Charlotte Foley called "more than the usual number of accidents" tied up traffic on several Southern California freeways at various times, starting with the morning rush period.

At least one traffic fatality was reported. A woman identified by police as Pamela Jean Rowe, 38, of Lakewood, was killed when the car in which she was a passenger collided with another auto at about 8 a.m. at Erwin Street and Topanga Canyon Boulevard in the Warner Center area near Canoga Park.

At about the same time, a school bus skidded off Victory Boulevard near Reseda Boulevard in Reseda and crashed into a house. The driver, who was the only person aboard, was treated at a nearby hospital for minor injuries.

Between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., said Los Angeles City Fire Department spokesman Jim Williamson, paramedics responded to 41 traffic accidents.

As the damp morning wore on, a semi-truck rig jackknifed on the southbound San Gabriel River Freeway in Norwalk, a tanker truck did the same on the northbound Golden State Freeway north of Glendale and two truck rigs collided on the southbound Long Beach Freeway in the Compton area.

The afternoon wasn't much better. A tractor-trailer rig jackknifed in the rain on the eastbound San Bernardino Freeway in El Monte when the driver had to slam on his brakes to avoid hitting a small car as the truck came up the Rosemead Boulevard on-ramp.

A second car struck the truck. That car's driver, Chien Chun Chao, 41, was taken to County-USC Medical Center where he was reported in critical condition with head injuries. A passenger was hospitalized with moderate injuries.

In each of those accidents, two or three lanes had to remain shut for up to two hours, and traffic was backed up for miles.

Although showers were heavy at times, the weather was a little worse to the north. At mid-afternoon, tornado-like winds struck southeast Fresno, knocking over a barn, a truck-trailer rig and trees. One tree was rammed into an occupied house, said Lt. Greg Burton of the Fresno County Sheriff's Department.

A field shed, Burton said, was lifted "right off the ground and thrown on top of a car on the roadway."

No one was reported injured in either incident.

Burton said the twisters appeared between 4 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. as a massive dark cloud rolled through the area, accompanied by an intense storm, thunder and "lots and lots of rain."

The rain, which was the result of a wet subtropical system from the Hawaii area in combination with a front moving down from Northern California, added up to only .28 of an inch at the Los Angeles Civic Center by 5 p.m., the latest time for which the National Weather Service provided statistics. That brought the season total to 7.50 inches, compared to a normal 11.25 for the date and 9.07 by the same time last year.

Some other rainfall figures by that hour included .93 of an inch at Fresno; .30 at Bakersfield; .76 at San Francisco; 1.11 at Oakland; .36 at Culver City; .49 at Beaumont; .33 at Long Beach; .25 at Montebello; .15 at Newport Beach; .36 at San Bernardino; .50 at Monrovia; .41 at San Gabriel; .36 at Santa Barbara and .31 at Torrance.

High Close to Low

The Civic Center high temperature was 54 degrees--only two degrees above the overnight low. Relative humidity ranged from 96% to 83%.

Today, the weather service said, Los Angeles should have partly cloudy skies with a 20% chance of rain. It should be warmer with highs in the mid-60s. On Saturday, the service said, it should be a couple of degrees warmer.

A wind advisory was issued for the Southern California mountains and northern deserts. Gusts up to 40 m.p.h. were reported in the Mojave Desert.

Some new cloudiness may move in on Sunday, leading to what the weather service said will be "a chance of rain and gusty winds" Monday and Tuesday.

As for the surf during the next couple of days, it should be 2 to 4 feet along the beaches of Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties, and 2 to 3 feet along the Santa Barbara and Ventura County shorelines.

THE RAIN 24-hour total ...... 0.28 in. Storm total ...... 0.28 in. Monthly total ...... 0.28 in. Total for season ..... 7.50 in. Last season to date ..... 9.07 in. Normal season to date .... 11.25 in. Figures, based on 5 p.m. readings at the Los Angeles Civic Center, are compiled by the National Weather Service, which provides no later data.

Times staff writer John H. Lee contributed to this article.

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