Southern Californians recount harrowing mudslides during deadly record-breaking storm

In Top News


Jesus Barron answered his wife’s panicked phone call warning him of a mudslide smashing into their bedroom in the hills of eastern Los Angeles County. Then, the line went dead.”She called me and told me the mountain was coming down,” he recalled Wednesday. “I thought the worst.”Wendy Barron escaped their Hacienda Heights home during Tuesday’s historic downpours in Southern California, but their house was seriously damaged when mud flowed down the hillside and blasted through the two retaining walls the family built when they moved in seven years ago.”It’s not enough to stop Mother Nature, of course,” Jesus Barron said.The storm, fueled by the second of back-to-back atmospheric rivers to hit California in days, came ashore last weekend in the state’s north before it moved down the coast and parked itself over the south for days, turning roads into rivers, causing hundreds of landslides and killing at least nine people. It dumped more than a foot (30 centimeters) of rain in some areas, making it one of the wettest periods on record for Southern California.One final drenching was expected Wednesday before the system gave way to fair weather for most of the state by the weekend. But even after the rain, authorities warned of the ongoing threat of collapsing hillsides. After all of the rain and snow of the past week, it wouldn’t take much for more water, mud and boulders to sluice down fragile hillsides, experts said.”The ground is fully saturated and simply cannot hold any more water,” National Weather Service meteorologist Tyler Kranz said.The system dumped heavy rain and mountain snow in San Diego County overnight before giving way to scattered showers. A military helicopter that went missing overnight was found Wednesday in mountains east of San Diego, authorities said, but there was no immediate information on the fate of the five Marines who were aboard or if weather was involved.Winter storm warnings and advisories continued in the Southern California mountains and to the north in the Sierra Nevada.Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said Tuesday that the city was looking to help people recover from the weather’s pounding. Officials will seek federal emergency money to help move homeless people out of shelters and to aid owners of damaged hillside homes where insurance companies won’t cover the losses, she said.But counting the damaged homes might take a while, she cautioned.”The hillsides are soaked — some of them are still moving,” Bass said. “So hopefully, no more homes will be damaged, but it’s too early to tell.”Jill Shinefield has lived in Beverly Crest, a neighborhood in the Santa Monica Mountains, for 23 years. She watched this week as her neighbors evacuated and other homes got damaged by mudslides. She chose to stay because her home was not up against the hillside.”Nothing like this has ever happened before in our neighborhood,” she said. “We have in the past been concerned about fires, but we’ve never even really thought about mudslides.”Work crews have struggled to deal with the storm’s aftermath. Some 430 trees fell in the Los Angeles area alone, the city said.Electrical outages on Wednesday had been substantially reduced from their peak levels, but there were still more than 71,000 customers without power, mostly in northern and central parts of the state, according to Poweroutage.us.People were urged to avoid touching downed lines and to steer clear of roads that are at risk of flooding and mud. During the storm, dozens of people in LA alone, including at least 50 stranded motorists, were rescued from fast-moving swollen creeks, rivers, roads and storm channels, fire officials said.Four of the nine people killed by the storm were hit by falling trees or limbs, according to Brian Ferguson, a spokesperson for the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. Another died when power failed and she lost her oxygen supply, one drowned in the Tijuana River near the U.S.-Mexico border and three died in vehicle crashes, he said.The drenching does have a silver lining, in that it helped boost the state’s often-strapped water supply. The water content of the vital Sierra Nevada snowpack jumped to 73% of average to date, up from 52% on Jan. 30, state Department of Water Resources data showed. The snowpack provides about 30% of California’s water when it melts.At least 7 billion gallons (26.5 billion liters) of stormwater in Los Angeles alone were captured for groundwater and local supplies, the mayor’s office said. Just two years ago, nearly all of California was gripped by a devastating drought that strained resources and forced water cutbacks.Atmospheric rivers also pummeled the state last year and caused at least 20 deaths.As the latest weather front moved east, it prompted warnings across the state line.Parts of northern Arizona stretching southeast toward New Mexico were under a winter storm warning through 5 p.m. Wednesday, and a wide swath of central Arizona, including Phoenix, remained under a flood watch until Thursday morning.The National Weather Service in Flagstaff, Arizona, said more than a foot (30 centimeters) of snow was possible in the upper elevations around the Grand Canyon by Wednesday evening, 8 to 15 inches (20 to 38 centimeters) were expected in Flagstaff and up to 18 inches (46 centimeters) were likely in the mountains east of Phoenix.

Jesus Barron answered his wife’s panicked phone call warning him of a mudslide smashing into their bedroom in the hills of eastern Los Angeles County. Then, the line went dead.

“She called me and told me the mountain was coming down,” he recalled Wednesday. “I thought the worst.”

Wendy Barron escaped their Hacienda Heights home during Tuesday’s historic downpours in Southern California, but their house was seriously damaged when mud flowed down the hillside and blasted through the two retaining walls the family built when they moved in seven years ago.

“It’s not enough to stop Mother Nature, of course,” Jesus Barron said.

The storm, fueled by the second of back-to-back atmospheric rivers to hit California in days, came ashore last weekend in the state’s north before it moved down the coast and parked itself over the south for days, turning roads into rivers, causing hundreds of landslides and killing at least nine people. It dumped more than a foot (30 centimeters) of rain in some areas, making it one of the wettest periods on record for Southern California.

One final drenching was expected Wednesday before the system gave way to fair weather for most of the state by the weekend. But even after the rain, authorities warned of the ongoing threat of collapsing hillsides. After all of the rain and snow of the past week, it wouldn’t take much for more water, mud and boulders to sluice down fragile hillsides, experts said.

“The ground is fully saturated and simply cannot hold any more water,” National Weather Service meteorologist Tyler Kranz said.

The system dumped heavy rain and mountain snow in San Diego County overnight before giving way to scattered showers. A military helicopter that went missing overnight was found Wednesday in mountains east of San Diego, authorities said, but there was no immediate information on the fate of the five Marines who were aboard or if weather was involved.

Winter storm warnings and advisories continued in the Southern California mountains and to the north in the Sierra Nevada.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said Tuesday that the city was looking to help people recover from the weather’s pounding. Officials will seek federal emergency money to help move homeless people out of shelters and to aid owners of damaged hillside homes where insurance companies won’t cover the losses, she said.

But counting the damaged homes might take a while, she cautioned.

“The hillsides are soaked — some of them are still moving,” Bass said. “So hopefully, no more homes will be damaged, but it’s too early to tell.”

Jill Shinefield has lived in Beverly Crest, a neighborhood in the Santa Monica Mountains, for 23 years. She watched this week as her neighbors evacuated and other homes got damaged by mudslides. She chose to stay because her home was not up against the hillside.

“Nothing like this has ever happened before in our neighborhood,” she said. “We have in the past been concerned about fires, but we’ve never even really thought about mudslides.”

Work crews have struggled to deal with the storm’s aftermath. Some 430 trees fell in the Los Angeles area alone, the city said.

Electrical outages on Wednesday had been substantially reduced from their peak levels, but there were still more than 71,000 customers without power, mostly in northern and central parts of the state, according to Poweroutage.us.

People were urged to avoid touching downed lines and to steer clear of roads that are at risk of flooding and mud. During the storm, dozens of people in LA alone, including at least 50 stranded motorists, were rescued from fast-moving swollen creeks, rivers, roads and storm channels, fire officials said.

Four of the nine people killed by the storm were hit by falling trees or limbs, according to Brian Ferguson, a spokesperson for the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. Another died when power failed and she lost her oxygen supply, one drowned in the Tijuana River near the U.S.-Mexico border and three died in vehicle crashes, he said.

The drenching does have a silver lining, in that it helped boost the state’s often-strapped water supply. The water content of the vital Sierra Nevada snowpack jumped to 73% of average to date, up from 52% on Jan. 30, state Department of Water Resources data showed. The snowpack provides about 30% of California’s water when it melts.

At least 7 billion gallons (26.5 billion liters) of stormwater in Los Angeles alone were captured for groundwater and local supplies, the mayor’s office said. Just two years ago, nearly all of California was gripped by a devastating drought that strained resources and forced water cutbacks.

Atmospheric rivers also pummeled the state last year and caused at least 20 deaths.

As the latest weather front moved east, it prompted warnings across the state line.

Parts of northern Arizona stretching southeast toward New Mexico were under a winter storm warning through 5 p.m. Wednesday, and a wide swath of central Arizona, including Phoenix, remained under a flood watch until Thursday morning.

The National Weather Service in Flagstaff, Arizona, said more than a foot (30 centimeters) of snow was possible in the upper elevations around the Grand Canyon by Wednesday evening, 8 to 15 inches (20 to 38 centimeters) were expected in Flagstaff and up to 18 inches (46 centimeters) were likely in the mountains east of Phoenix.



Read More: Southern Californians recount harrowing mudslides during deadly record-breaking storm

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