Alleged drunken driver turns PCH into mud puddle

All lanes of Pacific Coast Highway reopened this morning, hours after a suspected drunken driver crashed into an above-ground valve for a water main, turning a section of the highway into a huge mud puddle.

Updated 10:03 a.m.

The accident in the 1200 block of PCH occurred about 1:30 a.m. near California Incline, the section of California Avenue that cuts into the bluff and connects downtown Santa Monica to the coastal route.

Overnight video showed a roughly 150-foot stream digging into the cliffs.

The California Highway Patrol closed PCH in both directions and stopped westbound traffic on the Santa Monica (10) Freeway at Lincoln Boulevard.

The motorist was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, Santa Monica police Lt. Mohamed Marhaba said.

Shortly before 8 a.m., the southbound lanes of PCH were reopened, and northbound lanes reopened about 9:15 a.m., said CHP Officer Francisco Villalobos.

The powerful stream of water flowed unimpeded for at least a couple of hours before a backhoe operator used the shovel part of the rig to stop the water from shooting onto the bluff and slow the leak. By about 6:30 a.m., crews had shut off the flow.

The motorist hit an air-release valve on the main Los Angeles County Waterworks line that feeds Malibu, but no service interruptions were reported as a result of the accident, Martin McCain, a supervisor at the Malibu office said.

The damaged valve connects to a water line that is only about 3 inches in diameter, but McCain said it was a high pressure line. Part of the problem in turning off the flow of water was that shutoff valves on both sides of the air-release valve were covered in mud, he said.



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