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California and the West

Rains Set Off Slides, Cut Rail Service

March 07, 2001|ERIC MALNIC and DAVID KELLY | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A persistent Pacific storm continued to spin off Point Conception on Tuesday after dumping up to 22 inches of rain that triggered mudslides, damaged crops and cut Amtrak rail service between Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo.

Forecasters said a second storm due later this week could drop more rain on hillsides that are already soaked to capacity.

Precipitation from the first storm varied widely, with Santa Barbara and Ventura counties feeling the brunt of it.

The National Weather Service said that by 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, 22.80 inches had fallen at Old Man Mountain in Ventura County, 17.56 inches at nearby Tommy's Creek, 13.11 at the San Marcos Pass above Santa Barbara and 8.05 in Montecito.

On the other hand, only 0.35 of an inch had fallen in Signal Hill, 0.31 of an inch in La Habra Heights and 0.28 at Puddingstone Dam in San Dimas.

"Old Man Mountain got so much because the storm sat there for nearly two days," said National Weather Service meteorologist Tim McClung.

"Winds circulating counterclockwise around the storm aimed the moisture right at the mountains in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties," he said. "In eastern Los Angeles County, there was practically nothing, because all the dynamics were focused farther west."

The storm dropped limbs, uprooted trees, downed power lines and caused generally minor flooding throughout Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. The Santa Ynez River swelled to eight feet above flood stage before beginning to subside, and some residents of Guadalupe, a farming community in northern Santa Barbara County, were advised to evacuate when the rising waters of the nearby Santa Maria River threatened their homes.

Overflows at a treatment plant in Ojai poured 7 million gallons of partially treated sewage into the Ventura River.

The rain was blamed for about two dozen traffic accidents Tuesday morning in Ventura County, including one involving a school bus carrying 48 children that skidded on wet pavement and plowed into two cars in Ventura. No serious injuries were reported.

Amtrak canceled eight of its passenger trains after flooding and concerns about washouts prompted the Union Pacific railroad to shut down much of the rail line between San Luis Obispo and Los Angeles.

Jennifer McMahon, a spokeswoman for Amtrak, said almost 300 miles of track were closed Tuesday, but most would reopen by this morning. She urged passengers to call (800) USA-RAIL to confirm travel plans.

California 150 between Carpinteria and Meiners Oaks remained blocked by a huge mudslide, and officials said the road probably won't reopen for several days. The rains damaged strawberry crops in Ventura County, forcing farmers to convert valuable fresh fruit into less profitable juice.

"It barely pays to pick them," said Scott Deardorff, one of the owners of the Deardorff-Jackson farms in Oxnard.

In Los Angeles County, Caltrans crews used bulldozers Tuesday to remove a mudslide that had blocked Malibu Canyon Road overnight. A few hours before the slide, which occurred about 9:30 p.m. Monday, a rock loosened by the rain fell from the canyon wall, smashing the windshield of a sheriff's deputy's car. The deputy was treated for cuts on his hands.

In downtown Los Angeles, the 24-hour precipitation total at 4 p.m. Tuesday was 0.51 of an inch, raising the total for the season, which runs from July 1 through June 30, to 16.91inches. The normal season total for the date is 11.50 inches.

As much as 8 inches of new snow was expected in the Tehachapi, San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains before dawn today. Forecasters said there could be a few lingering rain showers in the Los Angeles Basin this morning as the weakening storm finally begins to move east.

McClung said the weather should be dry this afternoon and Thursday.

"But unfortunately, once again, our computers are advertising another storm for the coming weekend," he said. "The potential exists for more significant rain and snow."

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