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Rains jam morning commute, but no major mudslides so far

October 14, 2009 |  6:33 am


The first storm of the season has dumped 1 to 2 inches of rain in some parts of Los Angeles but so far has produced no major mudslides in fire burn areas.

Steady rain fell overnight across the region -- but there were few intense downpours, which officials feared would cause mudflows and flooding. The rains are expected to continue through the afternoon.

The wet conditions caused dozens of accidents on local freeways, already leading to a tough morning commute for many. Between midnight and 6 a.m., there were more than 160 traffic accidents, according to the CHP.

All lanes on Interstate 5 southbound in Santa Clarita were closed due to an accident. Accidents also were jamming traffic on the 5 north in Santa Clarita, the 710 North in southeast L.A. and the 57 North in Orange County.

About 13,000 customers remain without power, according to the L.A. Department of Water and Power.

The National Weather Service reports that downtown Los Angeles received 1.61inches of rain; the Hollywood Reservoir, 1.42; Bel-Air, 1.62; San Gabriel Dam, 2.68; and Mt. Wilson, .98.

Mudslides remain a concern in areas burned by the Station fire.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department said Tuesday that it had beefed up stations in the foothill areas with additional firefighters to staff two-person units that would patrol areas prone to mudslides.

Big Tujunga Canyon Road was closed 1 1/2 miles north of Mount Gleason Avenue to Angeles Forest Highway. And Aliso Canyon Road was closed in the Angeles National Forest, the California Highway Patrol said.

In the Bay Area, the storm caused power outages and flooding. Officials in Santa Cruz County, meanwhile, ordered homes evacuated in mountain areas where summer wildfires had burned.

The California Independent System Operator, which oversees the state's electricity grid, declared an emergency Tuesday afternoon after strong winds knocked down a major transmission line in Moss Landing, in Monterey County. The amount of electricity flowing on the line, a major north-south connection, was reduced by about one-third.

In Glendale on Tuesday afternoon, Paul Dutton worked amid a steady rain, unloading sandbags from his blue truck near the corner of Boston Avenue and Markridge Road.

He hoped the bags would help protect a friend's home from potential mud flows. As Dutton worked, dull gray clouds hung low in the shadow of Deukmejian Wilderness Park, an area that has been pegged as a prime location for mudslides. The park was almost completely burned in the Station fire, which broke out in August in the Angeles National Forest and spread to adjacent foothill communities.

"There is no vegetation left to hold back any soil. In a normal rain year, we have slides. Now we have rain without the benefit of vegetation," said Russ Hauck, a senior park naturalist who has worked for the city for 17 years.

He said crews had placed tiered levels of concrete K-rail barriers throughout the park in hopes that they would slow any debris flows.

"The hillside behind the nature center looks like a defensive lineman waiting for the ball to be snapped," he said.

-- Baxter Holmes in Glendale

Photo: Andre Khachatourians uses his wife's umbrella while checking for any rock or mud sliding on a burned hillside along Pineglen Road in La Crescenta this morning before heading to work. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

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