Heavy Rain, Winds Imperil Parade

Times Staff Writers

Bulldozers piled up sand barriers along the coast and homeowners stacked sandbags farther inland as the first in a pair of powerful, wind-swept storm systems began moving inland across California late Friday, threatening to drench the Rose Parade for the first time in more than 50 years.

Flash-flood watches were issued for hillsides stripped bare by the fall wildfires in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties, and forecasters warned of flooding at low-lying intersections.

Ten inches of rain -- or more -- could fall on some south-facing slopes before the storms ease late Monday, meteorologists said.

The forecasts were ominous for planners of the Rose Parade, which is to start at the foot of those slopes in Pasadena at 8 a.m. Monday.

“It appears that the most likely time for the heaviest rain and strongest winds will be Sunday night and Monday morning,” the National Weather Service said in an advisory issued Friday. “We don’t see a scenario whereby the Rose Parade will not be affected by heavy rain, urban flooding and gusty winds.”


But despite the expectation of foul weather, the parade will go on as scheduled, Tournament of Roses officials said. The last time it rained on a Rose Parade was Jan. 1, 1955, and it has rained only nine times in the parade’s 116-year history.

No matter how hard it rains on Monday, however, the hundreds of thousands expected to gather along the parade route will not be allowed to use tents, Pasadena police said. Officers said the main reason for the ban is that tents impede pedestrian traffic on sidewalks and block spectators’ views.

Rain began falling Friday morning in Sonoma and Napa counties and gale-force winds hammered Eureka as the first storm began moving down the coast toward San Francisco. A flood watch was in effect for much of the Bay Area, and work crews cleared catch basins and storm drains in the expectation of heavy runoff.

Officials also released water from Oroville Dam to create extra “flood space” in the reservoir above the dam. They said they expected to open floodgates on the Sacramento River to allow excess water to spill over into the Yolo bypass.

The first storm was not expected to reach Southern California until today, with the strongest rain showers in the Los Angeles Basin this afternoon and tonight.

At Venice Beach, where swells up to 15 feet were expected, about 25 bulldozers scooped up sand Friday to create protective berms along more than a mile of shoreline.

The berms “look pretty impressive, but I know what the ocean can do,” said Raphael Bertolus, 53, a longtime Venice resident whose home is about half a block from the beach.

“A lot of that [sand] can disappear.”

As a precaution, Bertolus loaded his pickup with sandbags to build a low wall in front of his property.

Another Venice resident, David Haugen, 42, watched the berm construction efforts as he walked his large, amiable mutt Gordie along the beach.

“We wanted to spend New Year’s walking on the beach, but I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Haugen said.

In Pasadena, officials distributed free sand and sandbags at fire stations in the Hastings Ranch and Linda Vista areas. Officials advised those with outdoor holiday light displays to plug them into surge protectors to avoid short circuits from rainwater.

Forecasters said the first storm should taper off Sunday morning, but rain from the second storm was expected to start falling in Southern California as early as Sunday afternoon.

“The second storm should be the strongest of the two and will bring a bigger risk for burn-area problems and urban flooding,” the weather service said.

Forecasters said rainfall totals for the weekend should be “on the order of 2 to 4 inches in the coastal and valley areas and 4 to 8 inches in the foothills and mountains, with 10 inches or more possible on south-facing foothill and mountain slopes.... Winds could reach 25 to 40 mph.”

Although the 2004-05 rainfall season was one of the wettest on record, this season, thus far, has been relatively dry.

As of Friday morning, the total rainfall in downtown Los Angeles for the season -- which runs from July 1, 2005, through June 30, 2006 -- was 2.01 inches. The normal season’s total for the date is 3.63 inches.

Associated Press and Times staff writer Anna Gorman contributed to this report.