An unseasonal storm dumped record levels of rainfall on Southern California on Saturday, triggering havoc on the highways and claiming the life of a construction worker who was swept away in the churning Los Angeles River.
Although slick and flooded streets in Los Angeles County led to dozens of accidents, the day's most serious casualty occurred in Long Beach, where a five-man construction team from P.K.B. Construction Co. was reinforcing a bridge across the Los Angeles River.
As the workers, who were under contract with the county, removed scaffolding from under the bridge on Long Beach Boulevard about 8:40 a.m., a 1-foot-tall wave rushing down the river slammed into them, said Sgt. Ron Spear of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
Four of the workers managed to escape from the water. But their colleague, Jerry Cabral, 48, was carried off. His body was recovered about six miles away, shortly before 11 a.m., during a rescue effort that included the sheriff's department and the Long Beach police and fire departments.
The intensity of Saturday's downpour was one for the record books. In downtown Los Angeles, nearly an inch of rain fell--the most for that date since the National Weather Service began keeping records in 1887, said meteorologist Bruce Entwistle.
Intermittent showers were expected to end by noon today, Entwistle said. By Monday, temperatures should warm into the 70s in Los Angeles and the upper 80s in inland areas, he said.
As usual, the region's rainfall created a motorist's nightmare. On Saturday, the California Highway Patrol reported at least 34 freeway accidents in Los Angeles County, including 16 involving injuries. "We've had so many collisions today," CHP Officer Donna Urquidi said, urging motorists to drive "cautiously and slow down."
She said some lanes on the Hollywood and Santa Monica freeways were under as much as two feet of water by late morning.
Six southbound lanes of the Golden State Freeway in Granada Hills were closed for about seven hours Saturday morning after a car slammed into a tractor-trailer rig that had jackknifed and skidded across the rain-slick roadway, according to CHP.
The 4:50 a.m. crash, which caused only minor injuries, occurred after the truck driver lost control of his vehicle near the San Diego Freeway interchange, running over a light pole and a stretch of guardrail, CHP Officer Dave Valiton said.
After the truck ricocheted to the left and jackknifed into the center divider, a Plymouth station wagon traveling about 65 m.p.h. struck the truck and got partially wedged underneath it, a CHP dispatcher said.
The truck's driver and the station wagon's driver and passenger were treated and released from Holy Cross Medical Center, a nursing supervisor said.
The rain also knocked out power to homes in Hollywood, North Hollywood and Bel-Air early Saturday morning. By late in the day, power had been restored to all the homes.
Times staff writer Timothy Williams contributed to this story.
Civic Center Inches Today's total 0.76 Total for month 0.76 Total for season 27.36 Last season to date 11.98 Normal to date 14.77 Previous maximum this date (1934) 0.41