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Rainstorm soaks Southern California, bringing traffic problems, mud flows

Update: The 210 westbound connector to the I-5 has reopened. Southbound lanes on I-110 between Via Marisol and York Boulevard are also open.

Rain drenched parts of Southern California Friday after a storm swept through overnight, flooding streets and freeways and snarling traffic in areas.

Traffic snarled throughout the Southland

The California Highway Patrol told KPCC numerous overturned big rigs — too many to list — had traffic at a crawl. One blocked the I-210 transition to the southbound I-5, which was closed for hours as crews worked to remove a big rig off the freeway, according to CHP.

The 110 Freeway too was jammed in both directions. All lanes were closed due to flooding, a Caltrans public information officer told KPCC. It was closed southbound at York Boulevard and northbound at Via Marisol. Maintenance was working on the issue, but drivers were advised to use alternative routes. By the evening commute, southbound traffic was flowing again.

Flooding also closed a major route to Los Angeles International Airport, closing La Cienega Boulevard where it meets Fairview Boulevard with a foot of water filling the street, Los Angeles police said.

Flooding causes mud flows, traps women on an island

Areas like Duarte and Monrovia experienced some flooding and mud debris flows during the windows of heavy rainfall. CBS L.A. reported a mud flow before dawn Friday affected 18 homes in Duarte, according to the Associated Press. Residents were told to shelter in place. Mudslides and heavy rainfall forced Valley View Elementary to close Friday, according to an alert from the school.

Mud and debris flow impacting a neighborhood in Duarte on Friday, Dec. 16, 2016.
L.A. County Fire
Mud and debris flow impacting a neighborhood in Duarte on Friday, Dec. 16, 2016.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department said rescued two women stranded on an island in the San Gabriel River early Friday morning.

L.A. County Fire Inspector Joey Marron told KPCC that area is part of a homeless encampment. It’s unclear if the stranded women were homeless, but the call was made by two residents of the encampment, he added.  

“Usually, local authorities will go around to warn everyone to get them out of the area — they didn’t heed the warning and they ended up stranded out there,” Marron said.

The women were hoisted up into a helicopter. They were not injured but were inspected as a precaution.

Two stranded women — and a litter of puppies — were rescued from the San Gabriel river bed on Friday, Dec. 16, 2016.
L.A. County Fire
Two stranded women — and a litter of puppies — were rescued from the San Gabriel river bed on Friday, Dec. 16, 2016.

Authorities also rescued a litter of puppies that was stranded.

Puppy rescue video

The Angeles Crest Highway was also closed between Islip Saddle and Big Pines Road due to a rock slide. Debris from the mountain slid down onto the road, effectively blocking it.

Caltrans’ Shelli Lombardo told KPCC the rain did play a factor, but rock or mud slides are not uncommon for that region.

"Unfortunately, state Route 2 is one of those segments where we see significant impact to the highway during the winter months, when there’s a lot of rain or snow, that has been prone to prolific rock slides,” she said.  

Lombardo couldn’t say when it would reopen, but there have been times where that section of road has been shut down for the whole winter.

Rainfall brings gusty winds, also brings good news for drought

The National Weather Service's Ryan Kittel told KPCC the Los Angeles Metro area received up to two inches of rain. The Getty Center recorded about 1.9 inches of rain, while the mountains received up to three. 

But, the storm is already on its way out as the rain is expected to taper off by early afternoon.

“It has been intense in the Foothills, but for the most part, it's been a good steady rain, which is the kind that we want," Kittel said. "It does lead to a lot of traffic incidents, but as far as flooding is concerned, it definitely mitigates that.”

There are some wind advisories out for the mountains in the Antelope Valley and some gusty winds in the coastal areas. The winds are expected to kick up a notch after the storm moves through later Friday. 

A flash flood watch will be in effect until noon Friday for regions that recently experienced wildfires.

“Although the rain intensities are tapering down, there’s still that potential for flash flooding, so people living those burn areas need to be diligent," Kittel said. 

Winds in the Antelope Valley are expected to increase after the storm moves through, he said, as well as some light snowfall around the Grapevine.

"While most of the population should be free and clear tonight, some areas up north might be facing some dangerous weather," Kittel said.

There was some upside to the morning's traffic chaos.

KPCC's rainfall chart shows that recent storms have improved the rainfall picture across the region. The Los Angeles Basin is now at about 20 percent of a normal water year, which is fairly typical for mid-December. The metric jumped by 8 percentage points in just two days, meaning this week's storms have been the biggest so far this year.

The metric KPCC uses incorporates rainfall data from 20 gauges, to show how rainfall is stacking up in the region, not just one area. While we're on pace for a normal year in terms of precipitation, the region is still suffering through years of drought.

Rain tweet

This story has been updated.