While it rained in San Diego Tuesday, it poured in Imperial Beach.
The meteorologists couldn't explain it, but four inches of rain fell on the South Bay city--twice as much as anywhere else in the county.
"It defies definition," said Frank Perdue of the National Weather Service. "Nobody knows how they got that much when nobody else did. I've never heard of that kind of rain here."
Sheriff's deputies in Imperial Beach reported that roads were so badly flooded that some residents were using rowboats to get around. Meanwhile, the station's phones were ringing off the hook with complaints from residents whose homes were being flooded by the wakes generated by passing cars.
"I just walked out into our back parking lot and the water came up to my calves," Deputy Deborah Boyd said. "The road in front of the station is flooded. We may not be able to get out of here tonight. We may not even be able to order out for a pizza."
Power Outages Reported
Flooding also caused outages that left 10,000 San Diego Gas & Electric customers, including the Imperial Beach City Hall, without electricity. A utility spokesman said power went out at 2:20 p.m. when underground circuits at the Imperial Beach substation were shorted by flooding. "Until the water goes down, the guys can't go out there and mess around with 12,000 volts," company spokesman Everett Langlais said. "The crews are standing by but it's really up to Mother Nature right now."
Power was restored to all but about 1,200 customers shortly after 10 p.m. Langlais said the remaining customers "should be back up by midnight."
At the height of the evening rush hour, the California Highway Patrol reported that Interstate 5 was closed between Palm Avenue and the border crossing and would remain off-limits until at least 8:30 p.m.
Slick roads all over the county caused a big increase in automobile accidents. A CHP spokeswoman said that there had been 200 accidents between 2:30 and 4:30 p.m., or three times the usual number for a clear day.
After Imperial Beach, the Chula Vista and San Ysidro areas suffered the heaviest flooding, a spokeswoman for the San Diego Office of Emergency Management said.
Farther south in Tijuana, five families were evacuated in the Canyon Otay area of Colonia Libertad, said Jorge Astiazaran, a volunteer with the Red Cross in Tijuana. Fire department rescue squads were ready to respond to emergencies, said Jose Manuel Carreno, assistant fire chief.
"There's a lot of flooding, but so far no major injuries or deaths," Carreno said.
The flooding caused partial closures of two principal streets, Boulevard Agua Caliente and the toll road leading to Playas de Tijuana, said Astiazaran of the Red Cross. Several feet of water were reported on some roads and various smaller streets were also closed, a common practice during a heavy rain. The flooding is expected to increase a chronic problem--the flow of raw sewage across the border from various Tijuana neighborhoods.
In downtown San Diego, a little more than an inch of rain had fallen by 4 p.m. and flooding caused part of Broadway between 7th and 8th avenues, which was under construction, to sink.
The rain was expected to taper off into showers early this morning. The National Weather Service predicted that the rain would end today, although the skies would remain partly cloudy with dense patches of morning fog.
Times staff writers Patrick McDonnell, Raymond L. Sanchez and Curtis L. Taylor contributed to this story.