Storm pounds Southern California

The Associated Press
Wednesday February 14, 2001

LOS ANGELES — Downpours flooded roads and snow buried mountain passes Tuesday as Southern California’s most powerful storm of the season peaked. 

The storm plastered the region’s mountains with staggering accumulations of snowfall since its weekend arrival: 5 to 7 feet on Mount Baldy and 3 feet on Mount Wilson in the San Gabriel range northeast of Los Angeles. 

Winds gusting to 75 mph pushed so hard on boats tied up at a marina in Los Angeles harbor that two docks were ripped apart early Tuesday. About 20 people who live aboard boats were evacuated in the early morning hours. 

No one was hurt but a few of the nearly 40 boats that became adrift were heavily damaged, Fire Department spokesman Jim Wells said. 

“Thank God nobody was hurt in this whole thing,” said Renee Carbajal, office manager at Cabrillo Way Marina. “It was a miracle.” 

Snow and rainfall were greater than normal primarily because the storm stalled as it reached the region, said Ray Tanabe, a National Weather Service meteorologist. 

“It’s a very slow moving storm so we’re affected by it a lot longer,” Tanabe said. “It’s a strong storm, but not unusually strong.” 

Rainfall totals since the storm arrived included 3.47 inches at Los Angeles International Airport, 3.34 inches in downtown Los Angeles, 4.47 inches in Beverly Hills and 7.32 inches at Live Oak Dam in eastern Los Angeles County. 

Gov. Gray Davis said the storm may have provided a silver lining for the state’s power crisis. 

“I’ve been in touch with the Department of Water Resources and they have informed me the storm has had a beneficial impact on our electricity situation,” Davis said.  

“It’s increased the capacity of our hydroelectric power. So while it is inconveniencing people, it does help us provide more electrons by producing more hydropower.” 

Snow shut Interstate 5 over 4,144-foot Tejon Pass through the Tehachapi Mountains northwest of Los Angeles. The California Department of Transportation estimated that the Grapevine section of I-5, which handles about 30,000 vehicles a day, may reopen sometime Wednesday. More than 100 trucks became stuck in snow Tuesday along the major route for north-south travel, said California Highway Patrol Officer Ruben Soliz. 

Two buses filled with children, including one returning to the San Joaquin Valley from Disneyland, had to be rescued on Interstate 5 by the CHP and Kern County sheriff’s deputies, officials said. 

Traffic on Highway 14 between the high desert Antelope Valley and the Los Angeles basin also moved under Highway Patrol escort. 

Antelope Valley Union High School District and Rim of the World district schools were closed because of snow. 

Traffic accidents plagued streets and freeways throughout the region. 

Three trucks crashed in the afternoon on the westbound Riverside Freeway near Corona, blocking four of five lanes, said CHP Officer Curtis Higgins. Several people were injured and up to 30 vehicles may have been involved in chain-reaction accidents, he said. 

The storm system arrived in Southern California on Sunday and may have played a role in five traffic deaths Monday, Lynch said. 

Authorities warned that saturated areas, especially areas denuded by fire on Palomar Mountain and in Alpine in San Diego County, as well as a burn area north of Lake Arrowhead in the San Bernardino County mountains, were vulnerable to slides. 

Trees and branches blown onto power lines caused scattered power outages for about 19,500 Southern California Edison Co. customers, said Tom Boyd, a company spokesman. Outages were reported in Monrovia, Compton, Long Beach, Huntington Beach and other areas. 

The storm also raised bacteria levels in the ocean off San Diego County, forcing authorities to close beaches from Coronado south to the border with Mexico. Urban runoff typically leads to an increase in bacteria levels at some beaches, which can remain high for at least 72 hours.