Environment & Science

SoCal flooding: Part of I-5 shut down by mudslides as flash flooding hits

Mudslide in Cajon Pass, shut by a member of the band Timeshares stuck on I-5 on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015.
Mudslide in Cajon Pass, shut by a member of the band Timeshares stuck on I-5 on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015.
Courtesy Jon Hernandez
Mudslide in Cajon Pass, shut by a member of the band Timeshares stuck on I-5 on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015.
Mudslide in Cajon Pass, shot by a member of the band Timeshares stuck on I-5 on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015.
Courtesy Jon Hernandez
Mudslide in Cajon Pass, shut by a member of the band Timeshares stuck on I-5 on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015.
Flooding in Lake Elizabeth on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015.
Courtesy NBCLA

Thunderstorms and heavy downpours caused havoc in some areas of Los Angeles County on Thursday afternoon, including flash floods, shutting down part of the Interstate 5 freeway and trapping some drivers in their cars.

This story was updated for the last time at 7 p.m. Thursday. For newer information, go here.


A glimpse of El Niño? 

L.A. County Fire Inspector David Dantic said Thursday's storm had been larger than expected, and suggested L.A. residents take the surprisingly heavy downpour as a call to prepare for a likely El Niño year.

Dantic emphasized that drivers shouldn't try to drive through flooded areas because of the danger that the strength of flooding and mudflows could move your car, overturn it or leave you stuck in mud. He also said that those in affected areas should be ready with sandbags, food and water, as well.

The areas that were inundated with mud were vulnerable, having been scarred by the recent Powerhouse Fire, Bob Spencer from L.A. County Public Works told KPCC. 

He added that officials are hoping this winter's El Niño rains would be more steady rain rather than a lot of water in a short time as seen in tropical downpours like the ones Thursday afternoon. Still, he suggested residents prepare for this kind of flooding in any case.

Interstate 5 closed near Fort Tejon

Part of the northbound Interstate 5 Freeway was shut down due to mudslides Thursday evening, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Several vehicles were stymied by five to six feet of mud while their passengers trapped inside. There have been no injuries reported. Hundreds of vehicles were stranded in traffic, the Associated Press reports. 

According to the AP: 

Drivers on Interstate 5 between Grapevine and Castaic about 40 miles north of downtownLos Angeles are being assisted off the roadway. Miller says it could take up to 24 hours to clear the freeway in both directions.

I-5 is set to be closed from the 138 to an area just past the Fort Tejon area for approximately 10 to 15 hours, CHP officials said.

Philadelphia alt-rock/pop-punk band Timeshares was heading to Los Angeles to play a gig at the Redwood Bar and Grill when their van got stuck on I-5, singer/guitarist Jon Hernandez told KPCC.

When it started, they saw a huge mudslide coming down the mountain and saw boulders floating down the lane to the right, as hail poured onto the car, Hernandez said.

"We were actually reaching out the window and catching balls of hail and throwing them at each other," Hernandez said, laughing.

You can see some of their experience on Instagram in a video they posted from the road.  (a warning, though, it contains adult language). 

Hernandez said passengers trapped in the surrounding cars had been supportive.

"There's another band two cars to our left that apparently was supposed to play a show that was going to be attended by one of the stars of 'Airplane.' We feel really bad for them," Hernandez said. "A couple cars were like, 'Set up your gear on the roof of the van and give us a show!' ... We'd probably play for more people in this than we would of at our show tonight."

Hernandez said they were doing just fine, even though they weren't exactly flush with supplies.

"We've got a pack of cigarettes. I've got about half a cup of coffee at my foot. There might be a bottle of aloe vera juice in the back if we could reach it, and I think there's some beers. So if it comes to that, we've got sustenance," Hernandez said.

He said the band was still hoping they might make their show.

Patrick Petersen of Echo Park told KPCC that his parents had to drive around the closed portion of Interstate 5 on their way down from the San Francisco Bay area. They were coming to attend Petersen's little brother's engagement party on Saturday night before getting caught in traffic at the Grapevine.

Petersen found out when his parents texted him to let him know what was going on. His parents had started to see mudslides, car accidents and abandoned cars. Petersen said his parents were able to turn around and take another route, but it will add around five hours to their trip, Petersen said.

"I think they're just grumpy and hot," he said, adding that if his parents had left just 30 minutes or an hour earlier, they could have been in the mudslide area.

2 houses flooded in Lake Elizabeth

Two houses just off the California aqueduct in the Lake Elizabeth area took on some water, ABC7 reports. The water appeared to have come through the house rapidly. A truck was stuck in mud on the property by the larger house. A nearby pump was pumping water out from the area. A trailer from a nearby property was overturned nearby, with the roof apparently torn open.

"We understand also that there could have been some properties up there that have been impacted by this deluge, and once we can get into those areas we'll have building inspectors on the way as well," L.A. County Public Works' Bob Spencer told KPCC. Road crews and flood maintenance crews were en route to clear roads as quickly as possible in the Southern California areas affected by mudslides, Spencer said.

The Lake Elizabeth area also received a significant amount of hail, NBC L.A. reports.

(Photo: NBC L.A.)

Area north of Castaic flooded

A stretch of Lake Hughes Road north of Castaic was flooded, NBC L.A. reports. Rescue crews responded to the area, but people there were found safe, the station said.

Flash flooding video

Strong showers and thunderstorms were producing heavy rain in the western part of the Antelope Valley, with flash floods forming or considered imminent, according to the NWS.

The storms were producing heavy rain over Twentynine Palms, with rain moving north at 30 miles per hour, with flash flooding expected, the service said.

Flash flood warning for LA, Ventura, San Bernardino counties

The warnings were for northwestern L.A. County and northeastern Ventura County until 6:45 p.m, and south central San Bernardino County until 6:30 p.m., according to the NWS.

Dangerous storm warning

This story has been updated.