Major storm soaks Southern California

A major storm drenched Southern California on Tuesday, causing traffic tie-ups across the region but few reports of mudslides or major flooding.

According to the National Weather Service, 1.5 inches of rain fell in downtown Los Angeles, breaking a Dec. 2 record set in 1961. Records for Dec. 2 were also set in other places including Los Angeles International Airport, Oxnard, Long Beach Airport, Lancaster and Palmdale.

Scattered showers are expected to continue tonight and into Wednesday, with clearing beginning Thursday.

Meanwhile, city officials across the region are asking residents for patience as mandatory evacuations are issued in the face of potential mudslides and flooding.

“We know that it’s very difficult to leave a home,” Glendora City Manager Chris Jeffers said at a news conference Tuesday. But “our primary mission here is protection of life, then comes property.”


Though Glendora residents weren’t under a mandatory evacuation in the morning, police and city leaders said they were possible depending on the downpour that’s forecast for the afternoon.

The National Weather Service predicted up to six inches of rain could drench the hillsides of the San Gabriel Mountains that were scarred earlier this year by the Colby fire and vulnerable to mudslides.

The city has distributed about 18,000 sandbags in the last two days, adding to its total from an earlier storm this year when 50,000 were handed out.

“We know it’s an inconvenience, we know it’s hard to leave your homes behind, but the fact of the matter is if the mountain does cut loose … it happens so fast you’re already behind,” said Steve Martin, acting deputy chief for the Los Angeles County Fire Department. “You’re going to be stuck and stranded, and it’s going to be very difficult for us to get to you.”

By noon, dozens of residents in Camarillo Springs in Ventura County were told to leave their homes as mud and water began to flood area streets.

“It’s just a big ol’ storm,” said NWS forecaster Andrew Rorke. “The entire state is going to be covered with rain today.”

Earlier Tuesday, power lines went down at Pacific Coast Highway and Sunset Boulevard, leading to a closure at about 11 a.m., city officials said. Lanes in both directions reopened after 5 p.m.

The power outage was reported about 10:15 a.m., a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power official said. More than 400 customers were expected to be without power until as late as 8 p.m.

Elsewhere in Los Angeles County, the bike paths along the Arroyo Seco and Santa Anita flood channels were closed, and in Orange County, hiking trails along the Laguna Beach coast were closed because of the conditions.

For nearly an hour Tuesday morning, 11,300 Southern California Edison customers were without power in Irvine, Santa Ana and Tustin after a tree branch fell and damaged electrical equipment, a company official said.

Emergency operations officials first issued voluntary evacuations in Camarillo, Glendora and Silverado Canyon. Crews along the foothills spent Monday installing K-rails and sandbags down residential streets and along property lines to steer runoff toward drains.

Camarillo officials called for evacuations in the Springs fire burn area ahead of potential mudslides. Notices went to 124 residences on San Como Lane and Gitana Avenue on Monday, said John Fraser, a senior management analyst for Camarillo.

The same area was walloped Nov. 1 by a rain-triggered mudslide. On Monday, crews were rushing to clear the neighborhood’s storm drain system, which was filled with thick mud and rocks during that storm.

Frank Zelinski, 82, piled sandbags around his house on San Como Lane on Monday and hoped for the best.

Zelinski said the neighborhood was still recovering from last month’s mudslide. A home down the street is still filled with about three feet of dried mud that oozed into the house and hardened. The yard is full of mud too.

Zelinski and his wife, Mariam, have lived in the neighborhood since 1986 and built their own drains around their home and a brick wall behind the house. But on Monday, they were packed and planning to spend the night at their daughter’s house with their two cats.

“It’s tiring from the standpoint of not knowing what’s going to happen and when,” Zelinski said, “and it all depending on the amount of rain we get.”

Times staff writer Hailey Branson-Potts contributed to this report.

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