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Crews continue storm cleanup

September 24, 2007|Tony Barboza | Times Staff Writer

Crews worked Sunday to restore power and clean up debris from the weekend's freak rainstorm, which loosed a mudslide onto Forest Lawn Drive and was linked to five highway deaths over the weekend.

A city spokeswoman said workers reopened Forest Lawn Drive late Sunday, in time for the morning commute.

On Sunday, city workers used loaders and dump trucks to remove about 2,530 tons of mud, ash and debris that slid down the fire-stripped hills the previous day, said Cora Jackson-Fossett, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Works.

The road had been blocked since midday Saturday, when the heavy rains caused the muck to break through a clogged drainage ditch and ooze across the road in three places, reaching depths of more than 5 feet.

The road was closed from Zoo Drive to Barham Boulevard throughout the day, but officials said they reopened it about 9 p.m.

As the slide swept across the road Saturday, it trapped 14 vehicles that either were parked and unoccupied or stopped at red lights.

It took crews five hours to remove the cars, but the mudslide caused no injuries.

The mud also blocked off a nearby parking structure and seeped into the first floor of three Oakwood Garden apartment buildings.

Authorities continued to investigate the rain's role in at least three fatal road accidents, including the death of Jeffrey Dale Cox, 37, of Montclair, who died after losing control of a moving truck during heavy rains on Interstate 15 in Mira Loma midday Saturday, and a head-on collision that killed a 22-year-old woman, a 15-year-old girl and a baby boy on Highway 330 in San Bernardino County that morning.

Southern California Edison, which had 129,645 customers lose power at various points during the storm, restored power to everyone by 3 p.m. Sunday.

By 10 a.m., the L.A. Department of Water and Power had restored electricity to all 30,000 of its customers who had outages, caused mostly by downed power lines and lightning, at some point during the storm.

"The first storm of the season has a tendency to bring a lot of debris down that can hit the wires," said DWP spokeswoman Kim Hughes.

"In this first rain we see lots of leaves and junk. We see the evidence of that on the sidewalk."

The storm, which began Friday, generated the Southland's most significant rainfall since April.

By 5 p.m. Saturday, half an inch of rain had fallen on downtown Los Angeles, and about 1 inch on Burbank and Van Nuys, the National Weather Service said.

Forecasters expect clear skies and warmer temperatures in the next several days, with high temperatures in the upper 60s to low 70s near the coast and the mid-80s inland.

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tony.barboza@latimes.com

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