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Southland Avoids Major Damage as Rain Moves East

February 16, 1986|DAVID FREED | Times Staff Writer

The Southland's first big winter storm of the year lumbered eastward Saturday, leaving in its wake more than 4 1/2 inches of rain, scattered mud slides and minor power outages, but wreaking little of the major damage that some had first feared.

Forecasters warned that while the worst was over, at least one-half inch of additional light rain and drizzle was expected to fall on coastal areas through today, with as much as 1 1/2 inches of rain expected in the mountains.

"We're not looking for a significant amount compared to what we've had, but with the ground already so soaked, where can the new rain go?--it runs off," Betty Reo, a National Weather Service weather specialist, said. "There could be some problems with slides if homeowners don't already have adequate runoff."

The weather service's extended forecast calls for the chance of more rain by midweek.

Authorities remained particularly concerned about the possibility of slides in areas left barren by summer brush fires in Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties and in the Malibu area.

Evacuation Recommended

In Ventura County, officials said they felt fortunate that mud and rock slides in steep Matilija Canyon north of Ojai claimed only one home and a guest house. There were no injuries.

"We came out of it pretty well," Lt. Paul Anderson of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department said Saturday. "We didn't quite get the rain we expected."

Authorities on Friday had advised residents to evacuate Matilija Canyon and nearby Home Acres, both chronic mud slide areas. Almost half of the more than 100 homes there were evacuated, Anderson said.

The Matilija Canyon area recorded 5.3 inches of rain Friday night and Saturday, leaving some roads closed by mud slides. At least eight other Ventura County roads were closed because of flooding, authorities said.

Closer to Los Angeles, oceanfront and cliff-side homeowners in the Malibu area spent much of Saturday filling sandbags and hosing off streams of rain-driven mud that had collected around foundations and driveways.

"Its almost therapeutic to get out here and hose the place down a bit," said Gregory Econn, whose garage was surrounded by three inches of mud. "None of us here had any damage with four inches (of rain). Another few inches shouldn't hurt us either. This is kind of fun, actually."

Econn said he planned to go surfing later in the day.

On nearby Big Rock Mesa, authorities expressed concern that additional rain might send about a dozen cliff-side homes plunging toward the ocean. The houses, some of them already abandoned, have been steadily sliding in that direction for years.

"Were going to be in trouble if it starts raining again," said Officer Craig Klein of the California Highway Patrol's Malibu station.

Authorities also directed their attention to a stretch of Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu between Topanga Canyon Boulevard and Las Flores Canyon Road, which was closed at about 9:30 p.m. Friday because of slides.

Only residents escorted by the CHP were allowed into the area Saturday to enable Caltrans crews to clear the road unabated.

Six men were rescued Saturday after heavy seas capsized their 30-foot sailboat off Venice Beach. By the time county lifeguards pushed through the 12-foot waves to the foundering vessel, it had capsized and thrown its six occupants into the water.

All six were taken to Daniel Freeman Marina Mercy Hospital where they were treated for exposure and other injuries, lifeguards said. One man suffered a broken leg and another a broken arm, hospital officials said, adding that all were in good condition.

The sailboat broke up and debris washed ashore on Venice Beach.

Three other people dove into the ocean before their 28-foot cabin cruiser washed onto the beach at Playa del Rey. County lifeguards pulled them from the water in good condition.

Authorities were trying to get the cabin cruiser off the beach before it was destroyed by the high waves, he said.

Further south, in Orange County, waves breaking over the seawall Friday night forced closure of eastbound lanes of Pacific Coast Highway in Huntington Beach between Warner Avenue and Golden West Street. Police reopened that part of the highway at about 9 a.m. Saturday.

Between Thursday, when the rain began, and 4 p.m. Saturday, 4.55 inches of rain was recorded at the Los Angeles Civic Center. Of that amount, .76 of an inch had fallen since midnight Saturday. Most of the rain came Friday, when 2.5 inches was dumped on Los Angeles, Reo of the weather service said.

"I've been here quite awhile and that was the worst I've ever seen it," she said of Friday's downpour. "It was so terrible, I couldn't see where to go to get home."

The storm brought the season's total to a respectable 10.86 inches. Normal rainfall to the date is 9.81 inches. Last year, at this time, 11.29 inches had fallen.

Heavy surf advisories for Santa Monica Bay were forecast for today, with high temperatures for the Los Angeles area ranging in the mid 60s. Saturday's high was 66.

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