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Rainstorm Does Little to Quench Drought

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Skiers may have been left dreaming and urban gardeners grinning, but the showers that left soaked lawns in Los Angeles and slush atop Southern California’s highest peaks did little Saturday to lessen fears of water shortages this year in the Southland.

Officially, 0.26 of an inch of rain fell at the Civic Center by late Saturday night--more than enough to slicken roads, launch a few mudslides and trigger scattered electrical outages, but hardly enough to douse the worries of water conservationists and others.

The first measurable rain of 1990 left the season total at 1.78 inches of moisture, nearly 3 1/2 inches below normal.

Bill Hibbert, a meteorologist with WeatherData Inc., which provides forecasts for The Times, said Los Angeles residents could expect showers and isolated thunderstorms to begin tapering off by this afternoon.

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Temperatures in Los Angeles are expected to peak in most areas in the low 60s.

More rain was expected Tuesday with the arrival of yet another Pacific storm.

Saturday’s rains were significant enough to inconvenience the lives of thousands of area residents.

The storm was blamed for knocking out electrical service to more than 7,000 homes in Los Angeles on Saturday morning, mostly in Pacific Palisades, Van Nuys and Canoga Park, said Dorothy Jensen, a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power spokeswoman.

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Power in most cases was restored in less than three hours, Jensen said.

California Edison officials reported similar scattered blackouts in the areas they serve, including Lawndale, Newport Beach, Topanga Canyon, Fountain Valley, Ventura and Carpinteria, south of Santa Barbara. In all, about 1,000 Edison-serviced homes in Los Angeles County were affected.

On local streets and highways, a rock and mud slide on San Francisquito Canyon Road in the unincorporated Green Valley area near Lancaster temporarily trapped at least three drivers and forced dozens of others to turn back, but no one was injured, Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Jim Billesbach said.

About three miles of the two-lane road remained closed Saturday afternoon while county crews worked to clean up debris.

Authorities said the slide was discovered by county fire crews on their way to another slide and flooding near homes at Calle Maleza in Green Valley. Inmate crews from a nearby detention camp stacked sandbags around homes to protect them from the surging mud, but for one homeowner near Calle Maleza, firefighters arrived too late: four feet of mud and water had already swept across his floors.

Nearby hillsides in both slide areas had been laid bare by a brush fire last summer.

The rain also sent silt and mud oozing across Mt. Baldy Road near Glendora, but the road remained open, a county Public Works Department spokeswoman said. Crews were sent to clear the debris.

On the rain-slicked westbound Pomona Freeway, a collision between two trucks Saturday morning sent a 50-gallon drum of the pesticide Diazinon spilling onto the concrete, forcing the freeway’s closure for nearly three hours. No one was hurt.

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Meanwhile, skiers who flocked to the San Bernardino Mountains, hoping the rains had turned to snow at higher and cooler elevations, found themselves schussing on slopes that remained bare in some spots and soggy in many others.

“It’s been more rain than snow,” grumbled a wet Sarah Ringle, assistant coach of the Snow Summit ski team. “We need more snow, less rain.”

Toward that end, the National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch for Southern California’s mountains Saturday night, calling for snow levels to drop to near 4,500 feet with strong gusty winds.


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