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Officials expect worsening weather conditions Sunday evening; flooding possible

March 20, 2011 | 12:38 pm

The National Weather Service has issued a flood advisory for Los Angeles County and a flood watch for the Orange County coast, Riverside and San Bernardino County valleys and the Inland Empire through late Sunday, the first day of spring.

Rainfall of a quarter of an inch to half an inch per hour was expected in Los Angeles, with the possibility of rock slides and mudslides, authorities said.

Snow was accumulating on the Grapevine on Sunday and in the Ventura County mountains, with as much as 19 1/2 inches in Lockwood Valley, according to Stuart Seto, a weather specialist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

“We’ve got a little bit of everything out there,” Seto said.

A low-pressure storm system from the Gulf of Alaska, buffered by winds from the south, brought the rains, with more expected Sunday afternoon and evening.

“The brunt of the rain hasn’t started yet,” Seto said.

As of Sunday morning, three-tenths to an inch of rain had fallen along the coast of Los Angeles County, an inch to 1 1/2 inches in the valleys and 1 to 2 inches in the mountains. Santa Barbara County was inundated overnight, with 6.69 inches of rain in Los Prietos, 4.20 inches in Santa Maria and 3.5 inches in Los Alamos, Seto said.

“Once this front comes through Monday morning, we’ll have plenty of cold air behind it that will generate some thunderstorms and some lingering showers,” Seto said. “Then we get a little break, and it looks like Wednesday another shower of rain, although that may stay north of Santa Barbara.”

Los Angeles is expected to end the year with better-than-average rainfall, Seto said. Since July, Los Angeles had received 15.97 inches of rainfall as of midnight, compared with 15.14 inches in the same time period a year earlier, Seto said.

Friday, another low-pressure system is expected to arrive in Los Angeles, with more rain from the Gulf of Alaska, Seto said.

All highways remained open, and although there was an increase in accidents, no fatalities were reported, said California Highway Patrol Officer Ed Jacobs.

“This is typical of any rainstorm we get in L.A. County: It pours hard, water puddles on the freeway, and people drive too fast and end up crashing,” he said. “If you slow down and maintain space, you’ll be OK.”

The 5 Freeway was filled with weekend travelers. Snow that fell earlier in the morning was not sticking to the roads, and traffic was moving at about 55 miles per hour through the Grapevine, Jacobs said. Still, on Twitter, motorists lamented the weather and traveling in it, posting bleary photos of their drive along the highway.

For Billy Schmalfeldt, who had visited his girlfriend in Northridge, the drive home to San Leandro was slow going as he navigated the 5 Freeway during an onslaught of rain.

“The road was barely visible, and it was hard to see because of the back splash of water from the cars ahead,” he said. Schmalfeldt, 25, said wind gusts rocked his car, and at one point his car hydroplaned.

RELATED:

First day of spring brings record rainfall

Roads closed amid flooding, snow, mudflows from heavy rains

A dozen homes evacuated in Woodland Hills; flooding closes streets

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Corina Knoll

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