After morning storm, sun warms the holiday

Times Staff Writer

The rains came to the Southland early Monday, swelling rivers and creeks and turning freeways into a slippery danger zone where cars ran into each other at more than twice the normal rate.

But as afternoon arrived on Presidents Day, the clouds parted, allowing the sun to warm some of the chill away. And throughout the region, children and adults alike took advantage of the holiday to bring out their basketballs, volleyballs and badminton sets, while holiday loungers sat back on the grass and read their books as the sun poked in and out of the clouds.

The storm brought downpours throughout Southern California, particularly in the San Diego area, where as much as 1 1/2 inches of rain fell in some sections. Even Lindbergh Field, where rainfall is normally light, registered 0.72 inches of precipitation, said National Weather Service forecaster Steve Vanderburg.


“It wasn’t a bad day for us” in San Diego, he said.

Normally, he added, the situation is reversed, with the Los Angeles area getting the heavier rain.

It was apparent at the beginning of the day that law enforcement officials would be busy, as enough rain covered the highways during rush hour to contribute to dozens of accidents.

The California Highway Patrol tallied 137 wrecks in Los Angeles County from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. Monday, compared with just 57 in dry weather a week ago.

CHP Officer Vince Ramirez said the rain could not be blamed for all the traffic accidents that occurred Monday morning, but it was a factor in many of them. No fatalities were reported in the morning rush hour accidents.

But the day did have its drama because of the weather, including an incident about 10:45 a.m., when firefighters rescued two homeless people stranded on an island in the rain-swollen Los Angeles River.

The two had been living in a tent on the island, and a swift-water rescue team made its way across the river using a rope and inflatable raft to rescue them. A homeless man was rescued from the same part of the river last year in the aftermath of a storm.


Earlier in the day, several vehicles, including two big rigs, were involved in a crash on the westbound 210 Freeway transition in Pasadena.

The wreck caused about 100 gallons of diesel fuel to spill onto the roadway, which was not reopened until about 9 a.m.

And at 10:15 a.m., two cars collided and one of them overturned on the Pomona Freeway near 3rd Street in East Los Angeles. Fuel was spilled there as well, but no major injuries were reported.

But then the sun came out and the parks turned into gathering places. Children chased soccer balls, or each other.

At Pan Pacific Park in Los Angeles, a family of nine Moroccans dined on chicken and rice at a picnic bench, chattering in Arabic as they ate. Farther down the hill, a family of eight Orthodox Jews drank 7-Eleven Slurpees.

One of those at the park was Lindsey Ames, who was enjoying one of her last weekends in Los Angeles before moving back to the East Coast.


“I came out to soak up a little bit of what is left of the sun from the weekend,” said Ames, 25, who will be moving to New York. “Being from the East Coast, it’s a unique thing to have a sunny Presidents Day. This is like a typical fall day back east, where it’s cool out and the sun is intermittent.”

Others at the park were simply making good on a promise. Rolando Maldonado, 50, who normally parks cars downtown, promised his two children that he would take them to the park on the holiday. So they arrived with a blanket, a green velvet pillow, extra sweaters, a bike and a scooter.

“Maybe next time we’re going to bring a new dog,” said Maldonado’s 8-year-old son, Christopher, angling for a pet.

The weather for the early part of the week is expected to remain much like Monday afternoon, with sunny skies and temperatures in the 50s and 60s.

That could change Thursday, when another storm front is expected to move through, with predictions of a 50% chance of showers.


Times staff writer J. Michael Kennedy contributed to this report.