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SoCal recovers from massive storm; rain is expected to taper off

A man struggles against gusty wind and heavy rain as he walks along a pier Friday, Feb. 17, 2017, in Huntington Beach, Calif. A major Pacific storm has unleashed downpours and fierce gusts on Southern California, triggering flash flood warnings and other problems. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
A man struggles against gusty wind and heavy rain as he walks along a pier Friday, Feb. 17, 2017, in Huntington Beach, Calif. A major Pacific storm has unleashed downpours and fierce gusts on Southern California, triggering flash flood warnings and other problems. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong/AP
A man struggles against gusty wind and heavy rain as he walks along a pier Friday, Feb. 17, 2017, in Huntington Beach, Calif. A major Pacific storm has unleashed downpours and fierce gusts on Southern California, triggering flash flood warnings and other problems. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Raindrops splash in water, mud and debris in a basin slowly filling up in Duarte, Calif., in a threatened area below a burn area know as the Fish Fire, as a powerful storm moves into Southern California Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. The saturated state faces a new round of wet weather that could trigger flooding and debris flows. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
Reed Saxon/AP
A man struggles against gusty wind and heavy rain as he walks along a pier Friday, Feb. 17, 2017, in Huntington Beach, Calif. A major Pacific storm has unleashed downpours and fierce gusts on Southern California, triggering flash flood warnings and other problems. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Downed trees and power lines are viewed near a school in downtown Los Angeles, Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. A major Pacific storm has unleashed downpours and fierce gusts on Southern California, triggering flash flood warnings and other problems. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
Nick Ut/AP
A man struggles against gusty wind and heavy rain as he walks along a pier Friday, Feb. 17, 2017, in Huntington Beach, Calif. A major Pacific storm has unleashed downpours and fierce gusts on Southern California, triggering flash flood warnings and other problems. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Rita Maissno, right, and Lara Seltzer make their way through heavy rain and gusty wind as they walk along a pier Friday, Feb. 17, 2017, in Huntington Beach, Calif. A major Pacific storm has unleashed downpours and fierce gusts on Southern California, triggering flash flood warnings and other problems. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong/AP
A man struggles against gusty wind and heavy rain as he walks along a pier Friday, Feb. 17, 2017, in Huntington Beach, Calif. A major Pacific storm has unleashed downpours and fierce gusts on Southern California, triggering flash flood warnings and other problems. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
In this Friday, Feb. 17, 2017 satellite image released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows a powerful storm beginning to move into California as the saturated state faces a new round of wet weather that could trigger flooding and debris flows around the northern region. The brunt of the storm is expected to affect Southern California starting around midday Friday and into Saturday. Forecasters say rain will also spread into Central California and up to the San Francisco Bay Area. But the National Weather Service says only scattered light showers are occurring in the region north of Sacramento, where the damaged Oroville Dam continues to release water in advance of new storms. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration via AP)
Uncredited/AP


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Two deaths, a sinkhole that swallowed two cars in Studio City and lingering concerns about flooding, mudslides and other damage are among the markers left behind from a massive storm that slashed across Southern California on Thursday and is expected to ease up Saturday afternoon.

Scattered showers and a slight chance of a thunderstorm is expected Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

"Anyone driving on the freeway needs to be careful of the ponding of water on the roads, slow down, allow more time to reach your destinations," said David Sweet, a meteorologist with the NWS.

About 28,000 SoCal Edison customers and more than 57,000 LADWP customers are still without power, according to the latest updates from both agencies.

The storm shut down Interstate 5 south of State Route 170 for more than 15 hours but all southbound lanes and two northbound lanes at Sheldon Street were reopened Saturday by 9:30 a.m., according to Caltrans. Three northbound lanes remain closed until debris can be cleared.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch across much of the region, including all of Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties, including offshore islands, and all recent burn areas. The flood watch will remain in effect through Saturday morning.

In the desert town of Victorville, several cars were washed down a flooded street, and one man was found dead in a submerged vehicle after others were rescued, San Bernardino County fire spokesman Eric Sherwin said to the Associated Press.

In one case, a tree fell and took down power lines, landing on a vehicle in Sherman Oaks, according to the L.A. Fire Department. One person there suffered an electrical shock and was taken to the hospital, where they were pronounced dead.

In Studio City, a sinkhole near the 4200 block of Laurel Canyon Boulevard swallowed two cars, the second on live TV as viewers watched it teeter on the edge before plunging in. Firefighters managed to rescue one driver, a 48-year-old woman, while the other managed to escape before his car fell in, according to Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Erik Scott.

https://twitter.com/ShootSeanNBCLA/status/832837646808276992/video/1

Scott shared more details of the incident on the department's Facebook page.

While being transported, the patient told firefighters that when she was driving, she felt the car pitch to the left, then it tumbled into the sinkhole. The airbags deployed. Water started coming in the car. She tried to raise the windows which would not work. She was able to open the door and climb on top of the car and started screaming for help. She said, she thought she was going to die. Then she heard the firefighters yell back to her.

The vehicles are expected to be removed Saturday, Scott said.

Inland at the Cajon Pass, the shoulder of Interstate 15 crumbled and sent a parked firetruck spilling over the side, but no one was hurt. Caltrans spokeswoman Terri Kasinga told KPCC that repairs to the damaged section of the freeway, which was just repaved last year, could cost $3 million. Two lanes remain open on the I-15 between State Route 138 and Cleghorn Road.

There were several traffic deaths on slick and flooded roads also, but it was difficult to say which were a direct result of the storm.

Other forms of travel were tough too. Amtrak canceled its rail trips for a long stretch of the state's southern and central coast. Things were slowly getting back to normal at LAX after the storm helped delay or cancel more than 300 flights.

The airport is still on a traffic management program this morning with some flights running about 30 minutes behind schedule. LAX spokesman Frederick Badlissi suggested that passengers allow for some extra time when coming to the airport. 

Winds gusting to 70 mph or more lashed parts of the region. Heavy rains turned creeks and rivers into brown torrents and released slews of mud from hillsides burned barren by wildfires.

"At one point the wind was so strong I'm surprised it didn't blow my windows out," retiree Phoenix Hocking said from Carpinteria to the Associated Press. "I now have a pond in my patio. And my dog is starting to grow flippers so he can go out and do his business."

Several stretches of freeways and highways were closed by flooding, including very busy arteries like Interstate 5 and Interstate 10.

"It's crazy," said Robin Johnson, an academic adviser at the University of California, Santa Barbara. "It's just pouring down rain. The wind is just going nuts."

In LA's Sun Valley, 10 cars were trapped in swift-moving water on a roadway and 15 people had to be rescued, the Fire Department reported.

Using ropes and inflatable boats, firefighters rescued seven people and two dogs from the Sepulveda basin, a recreation and flood-control area along the Los Angeles River. One person was taken to a hospital with a non-life threatening injury.

In Duarte, mandatory evacuation orders were issued Friday night for the Fish Fire burn areas but those orders were lifted at 8 a.m. Saturday morning. Some streets impacted by mud flows remain closed and will only be opened for residents.

Bob Spencer, a spokesman for Los Angeles County Public Works, told KPCC that county debris basins were in good shape after the storm. He estimated that about 326 million gallons of stormwater were collected from this storm, bringing the total amount of stormwater collected since the rainy season began in October to 25 billion gallons. 

"That's the silver lining, if you will," Spencer said. "We’re certainly continuing to harvest as much rain water as we can."

Several county parks are closed Saturday, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, including Crescenta Valley, Whittier Narrows, Walnut, San Angelo, Eaton Canyon, Rimgrove, and Avocado.

The storm took aim at Southern California but also spread precipitation north into the San Joaquin Valley and up to San Francisco. It was not expected to bring significant rain in the far north where damage to spillways of the Lake Oroville dam forced evacuation of 188,000 people last weekend.

The National Weather Service said it could end up being the strongest storm to hit Southern California since January 1995.

Road closures

As of 9:30 a.m., the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station advised that the following roads are closed:

More road closures in Los Angeles County can be found here.

Safety tips

Emergency crews are watching Southern California burn areas and spots around the region that are prone to flooding, mudslides and dangerous debris flows.

L.A. County Fire Department Inspector Gustavo Medina had this advice for people who live in those areas:

"If you see running water going down your street, please don't get into it because a lot of people don't know the power of water, and water that's even to ankle high can push someone down the stream."

Around the Southland, officials encouraged drivers to report anything they see that could block the roads – whether that's a downed tree or mudslides. You can report anything obstructing traffic by dialing 311 or to check out the My L.A. 311 website. 

Driver aid can also come in the form of the Metro Freeway Service Patrol, who will be on duty until 7 p.m. Friday night. Commuters can call 511 and ask for “Motorist Aid” from their phones or call from a freeway callbox. Free services include, changing flat tires, jump-starting cars, towing and providing up to a gallon of fuel.

L.A. County issued a press release with these safety and preparation tips: 

General Safety:
If you experience flash flooding, move to higher ground and/or the highest point in the house. Stay out of riverbeds and flood control channels during the storm. Water flow during storm is unpredictable and dangerous. Dial 9-1-1 if you see someone caught in a flood control channel.

In the event of thunderstorms, take shelter in a sturdy building. Avoid isolated sheds, garages or small structures in open areas. Avoid contact with electrical equipment or cords.

Follow evacuation orders issued by law enforcement agencies immediately – hesitating or not leaving may put you and your loved ones in life threatening danger.

Motorists:

Drive with your headlights on during rainy weather, and make sure your windshield wipers are working properly before rain starts.

Freeway flooding may happen – avoid driving in pooled water. Standing water is often deeper than it looks, and can conceal tire-damaging debris or make vehicles inoperable.

“Turn Around Don’t Drown.” Don’t attempt to cross swift moving water; as little as two feet of rushing water can sweep a vehicle away.

At home and in the community:

Power outages may happen – keep a working flashlight, and a battery operated radio handy.

Help keep your neighborhood flood safe by parking vehicles and placing trash containers away from catch basins.

Avoid parking on streets that may be vulnerable to mud and debris flows.

Report clogged drains, blocked roads or fallen trees in the unincorporated areas by calling the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works Dispatch at 1-800-675-HELP (4357).

Avoid beach areas. Storm surges may cause beach erosion and damaging high surf conditions with dangerous waves and rip currents to coastal areas.

Visit the Los Angeles County’s Storm Season website at http://www.lacounty.gov/LARain to view tips on how to prepare your home, where to pick-up sandbags, and how to register for Alert LA County so that emergency messages are sent to your mobile telephone or e-mail.

Los Angeles County residents, renters, and business owners, including persons with disabilities and others with access and functional needs, may call 211 LA County for emergency preparedness information, and other referral services. The toll-free 2-1-1 number is available 24 hours a day and seven days a week. 211 LA County services can also be accessed by visiting http://211la.org.

You can be a part of our storm coverage by sharing photos and video of the rain’s effect on your neighborhood. Text RAIN to 63735 to share with us and let us know what problems you might be seeing. You can also tag KPCC in photos on Twitter or Instagram.

This story has been updated.