Winter storm slams southern California, unleashing floods

Heavy equipment being used to clear US Highway 101 of mud and water from Romero and San Ysidro creeks in Montecito, California, on Saturday. Heavy rains during the night caused road flooding and numerous trees to fall.
Heavy equipment being used to clear US Highway 101 of mud and water from Romero and San Ysidro creeks in Montecito, California, on Saturday. Heavy rains during the night caused road flooding and numerous trees to fall.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LOS ANGELES • A new winter storm swept through southern California with heavy downpours and flood waters, prompting partial closures of major highways and mandatory evacuations in areas made vulnerable by last year's furious wildfires.

The Pacific Coast Highway was shut down on Saturday morning from Las Posas Road in Ventura to Broad Beach in Malibu, due to mud flows and flooding, while a 72km section of the highway was closed south of Big Sur due to felled trees, according to the California Department of Transportation.

Highway 101 was closed in both directions between Milpas Street in Santa Barbara and Route 150, north of Ventura, due to flooding, mud and debris flow.

No homes were affected and road crews were busy clearing the mud.

Local officials urged residents to use an alternate route near Sheldon Street because southbound of I-5 highway was closed due to flooding.

A train was delayed north of Ventura after reports of storm debris on tracks.

The National Weather Service (NWS) issued flash flood warnings for the Woolsey Fire and Hill Fire burn areas, including all of the Santa Monica Mountains in south-east Ventura County and Southwest Los Angeles County in south-western California.

Local officials ordered residents in some locations to leave for safer locations. Several evacuation centres were set up for local residents in the areas.

Evacuations were also ordered in the Holy Fire burn area in Riverside County.

The Woolsey Fire, Hill Fire and Holy Fire were destructive wildfires that burned in Southern California last year.

In the Los Angeles region, the rain was becoming more intense as the day progressed, reported the Los Angeles Times.

"We are expecting rain to continue with this storm through Tuesday," Ms Lisa Phillips, a meteorologist with the NWS, was quoted as saying around midday.

Wind gusts of up to 97kmh and overnight rainfall totals of up to 7.6cm were expected in Los Angeles county. Flash flood warnings were also issued for parts of Orange County and the Inland Empire affected by the Holy Fire last year.

The heaviest rains were expected to move east by Saturday afternoon, Ms Phillips said, but more was on the way.

Meanwhile, a Ventura County sheriff's search-and-rescue team member was killed and three other team members were injured in a crash on rain-slicked Interstate 5 near Gorman in northern Los Angeles County, officials were reported by the Los Angeles Times as saying.

The group was on its way to Mount Pinos for a training exercise when they saw a crash on the freeway and stopped to help.

"While they were assisting people, a vehicle plowed into the scene," Ventura County Sheriff's Sergeant Eric Buschow was quoted by LA Times as saying.

"They stopped to help people because that's what they do. This is another tough day for us."

At least six other people were injured and taken to hospitals.

XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 04, 2019, with the headline 'Winter storm slams southern California, unleashing floods'. Print Edition | Subscribe