Environment & Science

LA rain: 1.4 billion gallons of water collected from storm

County workers use heavy equipment to break up debris flow in Glendora during a winter storm.
County workers use heavy equipment to break up debris flow in Glendora during a winter storm.
Jed Kim/KPCC
County workers use heavy equipment to break up debris flow in Glendora during a winter storm.
This is the basin Glendora city workers unclogged early Wednesday morning, Dec. 3, 2014. The flat part is filled with mud.
Sharon McNary/KPCC
County workers use heavy equipment to break up debris flow in Glendora during a winter storm.
Robert Bodeman, a maintenance worker for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, monitors for potentially damaging debris at the Englewild Debris Basin in Glendora.
Jed Kim/KPCC
County workers use heavy equipment to break up debris flow in Glendora during a winter storm.
Trees scorched in the January Colby fire are in the Rainbow Drive debris basin, showing how close the fire came to this drainage basin and homes nearby, as seen on Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014.
Sharon McNary/KPCC
County workers use heavy equipment to break up debris flow in Glendora during a winter storm.
Homeowner Gary Bains was clearing mud and a pathway for Stormwater at 2 a.m. Wednesday morning, Dec. 3, 2014 with the help of city road crews.
Sharon McNary/KPCC
County workers use heavy equipment to break up debris flow in Glendora during a winter storm.
Maintenance workers with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works Flood Maintenance Division monitor rain runoff during a winter storm.
Jed Kim/KPCC


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Map of burn areas | Forecast

Update 5:41 p.m. Rainbow Drive residents clear away storm mud

Gary Bains, a Glendora resident who lives at the top of Rainbow Drive on a steep, privately maintained portion of the road, was up with other nearby neighbors at 2 a.m. Wednesday, clearing 10 feet of mud out of the road and out of a debris basin with the help of city road crews.

In January, the Colby Fire burned right up to Bains’ house. The debris from the burned hillside rushed down past his house during Tuesday and Wednesday’s storm. 

Bains, a couple of other neighbors and city road crews remained behind to finish clearing the mud from the street before it dried. Their efforts helped to spare residents at the bottom of Rainbow Drive from being inundated by mud. Those homes were protected by about a mile of K-rail and tons of sandbags.

Sharon McNary/KPCC

Update 1:45 p.m. 1.4 billion gallons of water from storm collected by LA County Public Works

All that rain falling on the Los Angeles region isn't going to waste. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Works' network of storm channels has captured more than 1.4 billion gallons of the muddy wet stuff by midday Wednesday. That's enough to supply water for the needs of 33,500 people for a year.

But before it can flow through home faucets, the water must first percolate into the underground water table, said Gary Hildebrand, the deputy director of Public Works.

"It could be anywhere from a few weeks to several months — a lot depends on which groundwater basin and how soon the water agency [that manages the basin] pumps it out," Hildebrand said.

The water runs through layers of soil and rocks, and after it's pumped, it's filtered and treated, he said.

To put that storm water haul into perspective, the water collected amounts to only 2.3 percent of the storm water runoff that L.A. County Public Works captures in an average year.

Sharon McNary/KPCC

Update 10:05 a.m. Voluntary evacuations lifted for Silverado Canyon

The voluntary evacuation order for some 60 homes in the Silverado Canyon area has been lifted, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

However, authorities were asking residents to wait at least one more day before bringing home horses and other large animals that were relocated for safety earlier in the week. That's because they were expected some additional heavy rain late Wednesday afternoon into the evening, said Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Seven Concialdi.

Some 60 to 70 homes in a Camarillo Springs community in Ventura County remained under voluntary evacuation orders late Wednesday morning. A section of Pacific Coast Highway between Yerba Buena and Los Posas roads remains closed, as does Matilija Canyon Road in both directions from Highway 33 in Ojai.

— Sharon McNary/KPCC

Update 7:15 a.m.: Residents begin returning home

As Southern California entered its second day of a Pacific storm that brought record rainfall, some residents were cleared to return home after evacuation orders were lifted and others were bracing for a continued flash flood watch.

Residents of 60 to 70 homes in the Camarillo Springs area have been allowed to return home after a daylong mandatory evacuation order was lifted late Tuesday and the city's emergency shelter was closed.

Other developments as of Wednesday morning:

Rainfall on Tuesday broke records set in the 1960s in parts of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Camarillo, Oxnard, Palmdale and Lancaster. Downtown L.A. got 1.15 inches of rain Tuesday, breaking the old record of 1.10 set in 1961.

Forecast

The flash flood watch over much of the Los Angeles metropolitan region has been extended until 4 a.m. Thursday morning. Showers will continue throughout the day with some heavier bouts of rain later this afternoon, particularly in the mountains of Ventura and Los Angeles counties, bringing the continued risk of mudslides in areas of recent wildfires. Orange County got a steady beating of rain through the early morning hours.

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— Sharon McNary/KPCC

Map of burn areas

6:10 a.m.: County workers keep watch on water levels

As a winter storm brought heavy rain to Southern California on Tuesday afternoon, county workers said debris basins above Glendora were working as expected.

Lloyd Sanchez, a crew leader for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works Flood Management Division, was monitoring levels at several debris basins and culverts.

“We’re looking at the flows, just looking how much water is going down the channel, all the debris. We’re just looking for anything that’s going to become a potential hazard,” Sanchez said. “Everything looks good.”

Debris basins essentially act as giant bowls, designed to catch storm water runoff, large boulders and tree trunks, keeping them from swamping neighborhoods below.

Sanchez and his crew spent the day continually cycling through sites in Glendora, monitoring the water flow.

The Harrow Debris Basin, which overflowed during a November microburst and sent several feet of mud onto homeowners’ property, appeared to be functioning properly. A worker noted that the water level had climbed to three feet against an inlet tower in the basin. He said such accumulation was normal, however.

“This is what’s supposed to happen. It’s supposed to flow right through, go in the tower, and go down the channel. So what we’re here for is just to make sure that tower doesn’t get clogged,” said Thomas Malone, a maintenance worker for the division.

The Englewood Debris Basin had accumulated seven feet of water. Maintenance worker Robert Bodeman was acting as a spotter for large debris that might wash down and block culverts.

“All these homes are pretty much safe. We’ve got enough equipment up here,” said  Robert Bodeman, a maintenance worker for the division.

— Jed Kim/KPCC