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Rain Pounds Northern California, Triggers Accidents in Southland

A big-rig crash on the Long Beach Freeway kills one, while the Bay Area is hit by power outages, wind damage. More rain is forecast.

November 08, 2002|Jessica Garrison | Times Staff Writer

The first storm of the season pounded Northern California on Thursday and drifted slowly southeast over Southern California, where rain is expected to continue off and on until Saturday night.

As rain fell in Paramount late Thursday night, a southbound big rig overturned on the Long Beach Freeway and slid through the center divider. At least one person was killed.

In Sun Valley, an MTA bus collided with a car at San Fernando Road and Tuxford Street, sending six people on the bus to hospitals.

In San Francisco, the storm knocked out power to nearly 360,000 homes and prompted closure of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge when high winds began blowing construction debris into trucks. The storm also caused a blackout on the San Francisco Bay Bridge for several hours, but the darkened span stayed open.

At San Francisco International Airport, high winds kept planes off the runways for nearly two hours and knocked down a cargo building, sending six employees running for the doors.

"It looked like a can opener went through it," said Mike Towle, the airport duty manager. "It's a bad storm. Heavy rain. Thunderstorms, lightening. Extreme wind."

Elsewhere in San Francisco, acrobats and dancers in the Cirque du Soleil canceled their opening night after their tent collapsed.

Gusts of up to 60 mph also whipped through the Sierra Nevada and the Reno area, with wind speeds expected to hit 100 mph in some places in the upper Sierra.

The storm could bring up to three inches of rain to the moisture-starved Angeles National Forest, closed since September because of extreme fire danger.

But officials said the forest won't reopen until at least next week after scientists have had time to assess the moisture level and make sure the fire danger has eased.

"No hiking this weekend," Forest Service spokeswoman Gail Wright said. "It will all depend on the amount of rain we get."

Wright said some foothill cities were passing out sandbags to residents concerned about mudslides on recently burned hillsides. But right now, weather officials say, the danger of such slides is minimal.

"We obviously need the rain from the standpoint of that fire danger," Wright said. "But we hope it's a gentle rain, because we do have the fire aftermath conditions."

Stuart Seto at the National Weather Service said this storm, the first significant rainfall for Southern California since January, would be a "light, tapering rain."

"But it is going to rain," he said. "It's going to be one of those soaking rains."

Coastal and valley areas of Southern California are expected to get between half an inch and 1 1/2 inches of rain, he said.

Waves at Los Angeles-area beaches could reach 6 to 8 feet today, with some rolling in at up to 12 feet. West-facing beaches north of Point Conception near San Luis Obispo could see white caps of 15 to 20 feet, Seto said.

By Sunday, skies will be clear, but another low-pressure area is building in the Pacific and could bring more moisture the following weekend, he said.

That's good news for Los Angeles, which last year experienced its driest year since record-keeping began in 1877.

Ski resorts rejoiced at the storm. Mammoth Mountain opened, and Boreal in the Sierra near Lake Tahoe announced that it might be able to open its higher lifts Saturday.


Associated Press contributed to this report.

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