The meteorological knockout punch that was supposed to slam into the rain-weary San Fernando Valley, which had borne much of the brunt of last week's storms, landed only a glancing blow Saturday.
While the area received a good dousing in the morning, recording 1.07 inches in Encino, hillsides that were weakened by a weeklong series of rainstorms held firm in Woodland Hills, Lake View Terrace, and the Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys.
There was one rain-related fatal traffic accident and some residents of the Santa Clarita Valley were still being kept from their homes for fear of mudslides. But, to everyone's relief, the storm did not live up to its ominous billing.
People who had been bracing for the worst came out from behind their sandbags with smiles on their faces. Rebecca Goodman, 36, of Woodland Hills enjoyed her first walk since the storms began last week, reveling in the clean air.
"Isn't it great!" she exclaimed. "This is gorgeous instead of terrible. I hope this means that the worst is over."
Even where flooding occurred as a result of Saturday's rainfall, residents seemed to take it in stride. After spending all day Friday sandbagging homes in his neighborhood against the expected deluge, Dale Baker went rafting on an inner tube in a two-foot-deep water channel formed by the overnight rain along 38th Street West, near Lancaster.
"We want it to run deeper so we can all go kayaking," joked neighbor Stephanie Rediger. "It's so boring around here. Nothing ever happens."
Emergency crews in the Valley were on alert in advance of the storm, especially since this is the area that had been pounded the hardest over the previous week, with Woodland Hills getting soaked with more than 14 inches of rain. The dangers proved exaggerated, in part because the front passed through so swiftly.
"The rainfall band was so narrow that it just didn't stay very long," said Bill Reed of Continental Weather Services. "It was kind of heavy and then it died out around 9:30 a.m."
But there was lingering anxiety over the possibility that wet hillsides could still give way--or that more storms might be coming. By late afternoon, residents in the Antelope Valley reported that rain was falling again.
Carlos Fernandez, 21, of San Fernando was killed early Saturday when the car he was riding in hit a power pole on Lassen Street in North Hills.
The driver of the car, Jack Gentz, 24, of Arleta, who planned to be married Saturday, was listed in critical condition at Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills, a hospital spokeswoman said. When Gentz is well enough to leave the hospital, he will be arrested on suspicion of manslaughter, Los Angeles Police Officer Tim Cox said.
Two other passengers were injured, one critically, in the accident, which occurred as the men were returning from a bachelor's party. Police said the 1:45 a.m. accident was the result of speed, rain and the driver being under the influence of alcohol.
In the Santa Clarita Valley, four of six Santa Clarita families who were evacuated because a hillside had cracked above their cul-de-sac were allowed to return home.
But Santa Clarita building inspectors ordered two families to stay away from their houses in the 19000 block of Maplebay Court because of lingering concerns that the waterlogged hillside might collapse. The hillside shifted slightly during the latest rainfall, muddying some back yards and buckling a chain-link fence, but damage was much less extensive than it could have been, building inspector John Robinson said.
Robinson ordered the evacuation Friday evening after city crews found a 50-foot-long crack in the hillside.
"I would have lost my whole back yard if it wasn't for the city and the County Fire Department," said resident David Eaton, whose house is perched atop the unstable hill. Firefighters had draped the slope with plastic Friday evening to prevent the rain from further saturating the soil.
Yet the ordeal is far from over for Eaton. City inspectors say he must shore up the slope at a cost of at least $50,000.
The tract has been a source of problems for years, residents said. Shortly after it was built, the developer had to replace the foundations in some of the houses because the concrete was buckling. Then, in 1969, five houses were destroyed in a mudslide, longtime resident Pamela Garner said.
"I'm just so disgusted with the whole situation," said George Hopkins, who was forced to stay in a hotel because his house is one of two still threatened by the weakened hillside.
"All I'm thinking about is moving away, but I don't know if my house is worth anything."
The storm that brought rain to the valleys caused several inches of snow to fall in the Tejon Pass, but the snow melted quickly at the lower elevations, and the Golden State Freeway remained open throughout the day, the California Highway Patrol said. Rainfall totals in the area included .75 of an inch in San Fernando, .85 of an inch in Burbank, .91 of an inch in Woodland Hills, and 1.31 inches in Newhall.