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Nora Batters Inland Areas as Flooding Closes Roads

Weather: Storm also brings down power poles and inundates homes. Forecasters say worst of downpour will hit Imperial County early today. Only scattered rains are expected in L.A. Basin.

September 25, 1997|ERIC MALNIC | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Imperial County was inundated Wednesday night with flash flooding that washed away power poles and flooded homes and roads as the leading edge of Hurricane Nora battered inland areas of Southern California.

Conditions in the El Centro area were expected to worsen early today as the storm moved slowly northward. On Wednesday, it generated 95-mph winds and massive ocean waves and punished the west coast of Mexico's Baja California peninsula.

At least 16 power poles were washed away Thursday night in Seeley, just west of El Centro, said Jon Erdman, a meteorologist for WeatherData Inc., which provides forecasts for The Times. A few homes were flooded and several roads in the area were closed.

"This isn't even the heaviest rains yet," Erdman said. "We're expecting heavier rains as the hurricane continues to moves north."

Imperial County could receive as much as five inches of rain by noon today, with the brunt of the storm expected to batter the area by sunrise, he said. The storm is expected to diminish in intensity this afternoon as it continues north.

The eastern edge of San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino counties should receive about an inch of rain, but no flash flooding is expected, Erdman said.

The storm is expected to be downgraded by today to a tropical storm. But even though the winds should diminish, the rainfall will still be heavy, Erdman said.

As the tropical storm approached, scattered showers began falling in the Los Angeles Basin late Wednesday. Spotty showers are expected to continue throughout today, with occasional, heavier thundershowers possible in some of the foothill communities surrounding Los Angeles.

Hurricane Nora and its predecessor, Hurricane Linda, were not generated by the much-discussed El Nino condition, but meteorologists say the cyclical weather phenomenon probably intensified the storms and caused them to track closer to the mainland than usual.

As of nightfall Wednesday, Nora was spinning violently off Baja California. Emergency workers herded coastal residents into community shelters and fishing fleets raced for port. Carnival Cruise Lines' 733-foot liner Jubilee, which had left Los Angeles for a Mexican voyage, changed its itinerary and headed for the Bay Area instead.

Another very powerful storm was spinning across the Gulf of Alaska but was expected to pass far to the north of the Southland. Forecasters said the combined effects of the two storms were generating large ocean swells that will begin pounding Southern California beaches by this afternoon. Because the waves are coming from two directions, seas are expected to be unusually rough for several days.

The tropical weather being swept north by Nora is keeping it hot and muggy in Southern California, with the counterclockwise circulation around the storm blocking the usual onshore flow of cooling sea breezes in the evening.

The thermometer at the Civic Center reached 99 degrees Wednesday after an overnight low of 75 that tied the record for the highest minimum temperature for the date, set in 1978. Slightly cooler temperatures are expected today.

Despite the heavy inland showers, the Los Angeles Basin probably will experience little more than discomfort and some scattered rain, forecasters said.

The National Weather Service listed several Southern California communities that should be especially watchful for mudslides and flash floods, including the mountain villages of Ranchita, Idyllwild and Big Bear Lake and the desert towns of Borrego Springs, Palm Springs, Needles and Victorville.

Officials in Yuma and several other southwest Arizona cities ordered the construction of protective berms and the emplacement of sandbag barriers to deflect possible runoff and flood waters. Gov. June Hull declared a state of emergency in Yuma County, and ordered a dozen National Guard trucks and generators to head to Yuma. The Red Cross sent a disaster team.

Times staff writer Miles Corwin and the Associated Press contributed to this story.

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