L.A. digs out — with another big storm on the way

Southern California began digging Tuesday after a storm that forced mass evacuations, damaged homes, rendered roads impassable and turned Los Angeles’ hilltop neighborhoods into a muddy, wet mess.

The system has moved out of the region, but only after landing a powerful blow. The National Weather Service called it the “most impressive” storm since 2005, showering some parts of the Central Coast with more than 30 cm of rain.

The latest in a series of atmospheric flows to shake an already soaked California also brought amazing rainfall to LA County — including more than 6 inches at Bel Air, Porter Ranch, Woodland Hills and Alhambra; more than 5 inches in Beverly Hills, La Cañada Flintridge, Sierra Madre and Pasadena; and more than 4 inches in Agoura Hills and Calabasas.

“I have a big, muddy mess to deal with, but it could have been worse,” said Universal City resident Dave Eichhorn, who woke Tuesday to find his backyard on a steep hill covered in mud. A patio table and chairs were buried a few feet below.

A more than two-mile section of Mulholland Drive between Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Coldwater Canyon Drive will likely remain closed to through traffic for several weeks due to storm damage.

In downtown Los Angeles, Union Station flooded, forcing some commuters to navigate stagnant water.

Cars are parked on a flooded hillside street at the 3700 block of North Fredonia Drive

North Fredonia Drive was flooded.

(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

Crews on Tuesday worked to evacuate 17 Studio City residents who were sheltering on the spot after a large mudslide. City workers armed with shovels and pickaxes attempted to clear debris and mud that had piled up at least 3 feet at the intersection of Wrightwood Lane and Skyhill Drive. Neighbors watched from a distance as the mud flow pushed large logs, two trash cans, basketballs and other material in all directions.

Around the corner, on Fredonia Drive, the muddy mixture seeped into a sandbagged garage.

Studio City resident Sarah Hunt called to check on a friend while taking her 13-year-old German Shepherd for a rain-soaked walk.

“I have several friends whose homes and properties have been flooded or had a mudslide,” Hunt said. “I still think we’re lucky nobody got hurt.”

Hunt felt deja vu. As a documentary filmmaker, she was filming in Montecito when that community was hit by deadly floods and mudslides five years ago.

“The community has been helping each other through this crisis,” she said. “We must do the same.”

On the streets of Studio City, cars stood in water up to the tops of their tires. Cars in garages weren’t spared either, as several buildings were flooded.

“It reminds me of the Central Valley,” said resident Eldon Daetweiler, 64, who grew up in Visalia. “There used to be constant flooding there. That was expected. Not so much this.”

A half-acre hillside collapsed in Hollywood Hills West. No homes appeared to be threatened, but firefighters and search and rescue experts were dispatched, Los Angeles Fire Department Captain Erik Scott said.

The storm also created a foxhole in Chatsworth on Monday night that swallowed a car and then a pickup truck.

The hole in the ground, at least 50 feet wide and 30 feet deep, opened on Iverson Road just off the 118 freeway. The Los Angeles Fire Department rescued two people from the car; The two in the truck escaped without help.

The vehicles sat in the canyon amid stagnant water, exposed drains, and mounds of crumbling, wet earth.

“We were really shocked by that,” said Chatsworth resident Bill Crane, 76, of himself and his wife. “We couldn’t imagine that something like this could happen. I’ve lived here since 1997 and I’ve never seen anything like this or rain like this.”

The retired electrical engineer said his home suffered minimal damage from the storm.

“From what we’ve seen on TV, we’re lucky not to have been hurt,” he said. “I guess those people in the sinkhole are lucky to be alive.”

After storms killed at least 17 people across California, the weather was clear across much of the state Tuesday afternoon.

All evacuation and housekeeping orders were canceled in Montecito and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Authorities too canceled Paso Robles and Ventura County Evacuation Orders and Alerts.

The aftermath of the storm.

The aftermath of the storm.

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

About 100 people were housed at two American Red Cross evacuation centers in Carpinteria and Santa Barbara early Tuesday. Many were drivers who were stranded when authorities closed the 101 freeway.

Among them was Chastnie Cribbs, 47, who resided in the Carpinteria Veterans Memorial Building with her fiancé Eddie Sanchez, 57, and their dog Chica. The couple tried to return to San Pedro after a work trip in Washington. All hotels in the area were fully booked.

“I was pleasantly surprised by the facility,” Cribbs said. “Nevertheless, it was an experience — an experience I want to leave behind.”

While Northern California is expected to have another storm on Wednesday, Southern California is unlikely to see significant rainfall until Friday and Saturday.

This storm will be “significantly weaker” than the one that just left, but will “still be an above-average winter storm” in terms of rainfall, according to the National Weather Service. Gusts of up to 40 miles per hour could hit San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties.

Another storm is expected to hit late Sunday through Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This storm could be weak but slow-moving, potentially lasting through Tuesday.

“So while rain rates could be lower, the duration of the rain could be longer,” the weather service said.

Even weak storms are a concern with such a long streak.

“It’s not that every single storm is a big scarier one — it’s the cumulative impact, because it’s really rare that we get caught in storms seven, eight and nine,” said Michael Anderson, a state climatologist at the California Department for water resources. “We just don’t have that many in the historical record.”

In the meantime, the clean-up work has begun.

The LA City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to allocate funds for repairs on Mulholland Drive, where a landslide caused severe damage near Summit Circle and Iverson Road last week.

Councilor Nithya Raman thanked city officials and staff for their work during “an incredibly challenging time”.

“We had 18 residents who had mudslides in their backyard and were advised to stay in their homes until we can dig up some of them,” Raman said. “A house near Laurel Canyon has completely fallen off its foundations.”

Times contributors Rong-Gong Lin II, Christian Martinez, Julia Wick, and Hayley Smith contributed to this report.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2023-01-11/la-me-southern-california-storm L.A. digs out — with another big storm on the way

Alley Einstein

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