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Rain tapers off as storm front begins to leave Southern California

October 14, 2009 | 11:16 am

Rain from Southern California's first storm of the season will continue to taper off this afternoon as the weather front moves out of the region, producing no major mudslides in burn areas, officials said today.

“The major part of the storm has moved through,” said meteorologist Todd Morris of the National Weather Service. “By the time we get into midnight tonight, we should be done.”

The storm has already dumped 1 to 2 inches of rain in some parts of Los Angeles County, and at least another inch is expected in the foothills and mountains, Morris said.

Meantime, crews are working to restore power to thousands of Southern California Edison customers who lost electricity during the storm.

Steady rain fell overnight across the region -- but there were few intense downpours, which officials feared would cause mudflows and flooding. Wet conditions caused dozens of accidents on local freeways, leading to a tough commute this morning. From midnight to 6 a.m., there were more than 160 traffic accidents, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The situation has improved so much that Glendale city officials said the threat of mudslides has ended there, at least for now.

"I think the threat of this storm front is [over], from everything I'm hearing and seeing," said City Manager James Starbird, adding the city will close its emergency operations center at noon today unless conditions change.

The foothill community was one of several threatened by potential mudslides after the Station fire that broke out in August in the Angeles National Forest charred much of the San Gabriel Mountains, leaving little if any vegetation to hold debris in place.

While the current threat may be over, Starbird said many of the sandbags and concrete barriers that were placed throughout the city will remain in place for some time

At least 19,500 Southern California Edison customers were without power today, with the hardest hit areas in Arcadia, Long Beach, Paramount, La Mirada and Garden Grove, said Vanessa McGrady, a spokeswoman for the utility.

The cause of the outages ranged from skidding cars toppling power poles to tree branches falling on wires, she said.

Most of the outages were reported around midnight Monday into this morning. It was not known when power would be restored, she said.

“We’ve got many crews out there making assessments and restoring power as quickly as they can,” McGrady said.

Officials reminded customers to stay away from fallen wires.

“Call your local law enforcement or call us,” McGrady said. “When the power is gone out, unplug or turn off major electronics and leave one light on in a room, so you can check when the power has been restored.”

In territory covered by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, 14,000 customers were without power today, but 40,500 customers had had their power restored, said DWP spokeswoman Gale Harris.

Morris said the storm was a welcome respite from dry conditions affecting Southern California.

“We had good rainfall that fell for a long period of time and didn’t cause any problems like flooding and mudslides,” he said. “It was a good soak, and that’s the kind of rain we really need.”

-- Baxter Holmes in Glendale and Ruben Vives

Photo: Sand bags are stacked to defend against mudslides along Rock Castle Drive in La Cañada Flintridge as work crews install cement barriers to protect steep hillside neighborhoods. Credit: Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times

More photos > > >

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