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Storm's Final Shots Frustrate Motorists, Leave 1 Man Dead

Many hoping to take Metrolink to avoid driving are turned away from the Irvine station's packed lot.

February 14, 2003|Steve Hymon and Mai Tran | Times Staff Writers

As the Southland's largest storm of the season tapered off Thursday, perhaps to little or nothing today, drivers endured a final spate of frustrations.

In Irvine, a surge of people hoping to take the train to work Thursday morning to avoid the packed freeways was waved away from the city's Metrolink station because of a lack of parking spaces.

"No one likes to drive in weather like this," Metrolink spokeswoman Sharon Gavin said.

Security officials reported that the parking lot at the Irvine Transportation Center reached its capacity, 547 vehicles, by 7:10 a.m. The lot reopened briefly and then closed again at 7:35 a.m.

"It's a rainy day and there are accidents on the freeway, so it's understandable that people don't want to sit in their cars for two hours," said Farideh Lyons, a senior transportation analyst with Irvine.

An average of 3,000 commuters a day ride Metrolink from Orange County stations to Los Angeles, 400 of them boarding in Irvine. Figures for Thursday were unavailable.

Lyons said passengers, including those turned away from the station, are being urged to use the new Tustin and Laguna Niguel train stations. "People get frustrated because they didn't anticipate the rush," Lyons said. "But a lot of people thought alike today. It's unpredictable."

The CHP logged 62 accidents on Orange County freeways, including one fatality, between 5 a.m. and 2 p.m. Thursday, when the rain was at its worst.

A motorist was killed in a single-car accident in Costa Mesa when his Ford Explorer drifted off the San Diego Freeway near the Costa Mesa Freeway during the morning rush hour. The unidentified driver was pronounced dead at the scene.

Drivers in Los Angeles County endured seven SigAlerts during the morning rush hour.

Some scattered thunderstorms remained in the area late Thursday. Rainfall totals for the storm were 3.58 inches in downtown Los Angeles, 6.3 inches at the Sepulveda Dam in the San Fernando Valley, 4.59 inches in Oxnard and 2.8 inches in Anaheim, according to the National Weather Service. The forecast for today is for mostly cloudy skies with a slight chance of showers and high temperatures in the 60s, according to the weather service. There is a chance of showers beginning Saturday night and continuing into Sunday morning.

"We knew this was going to be a big storm, but sometimes it adds up quickly, and that's what happened," said Curt Kaplan, a meteorologist in the National Weather Service's Oxnard office. "We got it and then some."

Kaplan said there were no more significant storms on the immediate horizon.

Those in the weather business are still debating how much of a factor the El Nino weather condition will be this year. El Nino typically brings a series of warm, wet storms in late winter and early spring.

Before the storm began early Tuesday, downtown Los Angeles had received 68% of its normal rainfall for the season. As of Thursday night, the city was at 104% of normal.

By Thursday evening, mudslides that had temporarily closed portions of Interstate 5 near the Tejon Pass and Interstate 15 near the Cajon Pass on Wednesday had been cleaned up, according to Caltrans.

One beneficiary of the storm was the Sierra Nevada snowpack, which supplies much of Southern California's drinking water. Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort in the Eastern Sierra reported 8 to 10 inches of new snow on the slopes.

As of Thursday, the water content of the snowpack was still slightly below average in the southern and central Sierra, according to the California Department of Water Resources.


Times staff writer Michael Krikorian contributed to this report.

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