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Spring equinox arrives all wet in L.A.; Flooding, evacuations reported [Updated]

March 20, 2011 |  4:17 pm

Rain in downtown L.A.

Winter gave way to Spring on Sunday afternoon, though the weather still feels downright winter-like.

California was hit by heavy rains and winds on the spring equinox -- particularly in the Santa Barbara and Ventura areas.

“We have received a large amount of rain — we’re talking about 10 inches of rain around the Cachuma area,” said Michael Harris, Santa Barbara County's emergency operations chief. Rain gauges showed rainfall up to 10.54 inches along the Santa Ynez River in the last 48 hours.

[Updated at 6:30 p.m.: There were reports of widespread street flooding as the National Weather Service warned of heavy downpours in western parts of the L.A. Basin in the next few hours. Flooding closed the Sepulveda Boulevard tunnel at LAX as well as lanes on the 105 Freeway. The CHP reported up to 5 feet of water blocking a lane of the 405 Freeway in the Sepulveda Pass. Thousands were without power, and firefighters were responding to scattered reports of flooding inside homes.

Updated at 7:12 p.m.: The NWS was also warning residents about possible flooding and rockslides in the Santa Monica Mountains and Malibu Hills as well as on Pacific Coast Highway and connecting canyon roads, which have been pounded by rain in the last few hours. Debris flows forced the Los Angeles Fire Department to evacuate 12 homes on Regalo Road in Woodland Hills.

The LAPD said the following areas are closed: Burbank Boulevard at the 405 Freeway on the eastside; Balboa Boulevard on the westside Vanowen Street between Woodley and Hayvenhurst Avenue Oxnard Street; Donna Avenue Balboa Boulevard between Victory and Burbank Boulevard.

Updated at 8:06 p.m.: The CHP announced Interstate 5 south throught the Grapevine is closed by snow and that the northbound lanes could also be closed "at any time."]

Viewer nikmd sent in this picture of a tree brought down by heavy winds in Victorville. (KTLA-TV / March 20, 2011)

Astronomical spring -– the spring or vernal equinox -– occurs at 4:21 p.m. in California. Meteorologist Richard Castro of the National Weather Service told the Chicago Tribune the event signifies that the sun crosses the celestial equator on its way north.

It also signifies that across the planet today, there are approximately equal amounts of daylight and sunlight, though the actual dates when that happens vary depending on how far north or south a place is.

--Shelby Grad and Molly Hennessy-Fiske

Photo: Rain in downtown L.A. Credit: Shelby Grad / Los Angeles Times; Downed Tree in Victorville. KTLA News.