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Snow and Heavy Rain Wallop Southland

Weather: Traffic problems abound. New storm could dump 3 inches of rain today, causing floods and mudslides.


A fierce winter storm dumped heavy rain and snow that snarled highways throughout the coastal valleys and inland mountains of Southern California on Monday, and forecasters said there is more on the way today and Wednesday.

As much as 3 inches of rain could could fall in parts of the Southland today, posing the threat of floods and mudslides where the ground is saturated.

Snow that forced motorists to use chains above 4,000 feet Monday was expected to reach depths of up to 4 feet by tonight. Forecasters predicted a return of the dense fog and gusting winds that reduced visibility to near zero in some of the winter resort communities in the Tehachapi, San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains.

"People should avoid travel," the National Weather Service said. "This weather will be dangerous for unprepared hikers or campers."

After an unusually dry fall, a month of intermittent rain has nearly saturated the soil, officials said.

"We are getting close to the saturation point in some places," county hydrologist Dolores Taylor said. "We're getting to the point where if we get another storm, there will be higher than moderate runoff. Then roads get damaged, and all heck breaks loose."

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday February 14, 2001 Valley Edition Metro Part B Page 3 Zones Desk 1 inches; 19 words Type of Material: Correction
Flooded street--A photo caption Tuesday incorrectly identified the location of a flooded underpass. The underpass is in Sun Valley.

The California Highway Patrol said it received 525 accident calls in Los Angeles County between midnight Sunday and 8 p.m. Monday, nearly twice the number during the same period a week earlier. Five people died in the traffic accidents.

Two of those victims were found after their vehicle plunged 300 feet down an embankment on Mulholland Highway south of Calabasas, the CHP said.

County workers driving on Mulholland three miles west of Las Virgenes Road saw the burned vehicle about 9:45 a.m., said CHP Officer Ray Abramian. The body of a man who appeared to be about 21 years old was found 50 feet from the wreckage and the second victim was under the vehicle.

Their identities were being withheld pending notification of relatives. It wasn't known if the accident was caused by rain.

But crashes on rain-slick pavement tied up several major highways for hours, including the Pomona Freeway in Ontario, where several big rigs overturned, and Interstate 5 in Mission Viejo, where traffic slowed to a near stop while Caltrans cleaned up chicken parts that spilled across three lanes from an overturned truck.

Standing water forced the California Highway Patrol to shut down several lanes of Interstate 5 in Lake Forest and parts of Interstate 5 in San Clemente.

In Tustin, firefighters used sandbags to wall off a small mudslide near a construction site.

"We were just at that point where there's enough water streaming on the roads to cause problems and slow traffic way down," said Orange County Sheriff's Lt. Rich Paddock.

Residents near Frazier Park are getting water damage from snow accumulation on their rooftops, said Andrea Vann, an assistant for Discount Roofing in Frazier Park.

"For the last two weeks we've been getting calls left and right, but we can't do anything until the snow melts," Vann said.

Students in the Hughes-Elizabeth Lakes Union School District, who were off Monday for a holiday, may get a second day at home because of snow, district officials said.

The Weather Service said 1.51 inches of rain had accumulated in downtown Los Angeles by 4 p.m. Monday, raising the total for the year, which runs from July 1 through June 30, to 8.75 inches. The normal season's total for the date is 9.15 inches. Tim Carlson, a meteorologist with Weather Central, which provides forecasts for The Times, said the rain and snow were being generated by a strong Pacific storm that was centered Monday off San Francisco.

"The rain and snow you got early Monday came from a cold front on the leading edge of that storm," he said. "There's a lot more on the way."

Carlson said winds circulating counterclockwise around the storm center as it continued to move south were expected to pick up additional moisture from the ocean.

"The storm will suck some of that moisture right into Southern California on Tuesday," he said. "Some of the heaviest rain in Los Angeles should be be around 7 a.m., the worst time for those heading for work."

Carlson said the the rain, heavy at times, should continue, off and on, throughout the day, with a possibility of some thundershowers in the afternoon. The farther south, the more rain, he said, with up to an inch in Los Angeles County, up to an inch and a half in Orange County and up to 2 inches in San Diego County.

The snow line is expected to dip as low as 3,500 feet, with the heaviest snowfall above 4,500 feet, where as much as 4 feet could accumulate during the storm.

Scattered rain and snow showers were forecast for Wednesday, with partial clearing and continued cool weather on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

"There's another storm coming out of the Gulf of Alaska that should reach Southern California by Sunday," Carlson said. "Southern California will get some of that, but how much and how long, it's too early to tell."


Times staff writers Matthew Ebnet in Orange County, Daryl Kelley in Ventura County, and Roberto J. Manzano and Nedra Rhone in the San Fernando Valley contributed to this story.

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