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Climate and Environment

Storm Clean Up Underway, As Officials Brace For More Rain

A tumultuous muddy river flows towards a bridge with train tracks. The stands of the bridge in the water are full of drift wood and debris.
The bridge of train tracks on the Ventura River collect debris and mud from upstream on Jan. 10, 2023.
(Ashley Balderrama
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Government workers and residents are using the break in storms to clean up and prepare for the next batch of rain, expected to hit Southern California late Friday.

Here's an update on what's happening across the region.

Los Angeles County

The biggest recovery effort in the Los Angeles area was happening on Mulholland Drive on Wednesday, where a new landslide forced transportation authorities to close the road to thru traffic west of Coldwater Canyon Drive. Mulholland Drive is also closed to thru traffic between Coldwater Canyon Drive and Laurel Canyon Boulevard.

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Nichols Canyon Road in the Hollywood Hills was also closed to thru traffic between Wattles and Willow Glen after a large tree and debris slid onto the road.

Workers are cleaning up smaller mud and debris flows in other areas, said Joseph Riser, spokesperson for the L.A. City Emergency Management Department. "The crews are working in as many places as they can," Riser said, adding that they're prioritizing cleanups by how many people are affected and when they received the call for help.

Riser said just because the rain has stopped, doesn't mean there won't be new problems caused by continued runoff. Still, he said, "we're hoping the next couple days of sun will alleviate some of the water saturation."

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power estimates stormwater captured from the latest storm brings the total since Oct. 1 to nearly 32,500 acre-feet. That's enough water to serve 139,000 households for a year, according to a press release from the agency.

Much of the water that falls during storms in the area flows back into the ocean. L.A. County has plans to double its rain water capture in the coming years.

Orange County

No major damage from the recent storms was reported in Orange County, although the Seal Beach Pier, damaged by previous storms, remains closed.

The heavy rains have also delayed work on a section of train tracks in San Clemente that were shut down last fall because of hazardous coastal erosion. Passenger train service, recently scheduled to resume in February, now likely won't resume until March, according to an update from local officials this week.

In Huntington Beach, the hospital roof of The Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center was leaking. The nonprofit, which rehabilitates injured and orphaned native wildlife, shut down its treatment and nursery area due to needed repairs after the storm.

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Ventura County

All evacuation and shelter in place orders for communities in Ventura County have been lifted. However, Ventura County emergency authorities warned that the hillside in the historically vulnerable area of La Conchita, which is right next to Highway 101, "remains susceptible to debris flows and landslides."

A landslide that killed 10 people in La Conchita on Jan. 10, 2005 was triggered after 8 inches of rain fell over a two-week period. Over the past two weeks, the area has received 8.04 inches of rainfall, according to a county information page on La Conchita.

Landslide geologist Jeremy Lancaster said landslide threats can last days to weeks after a significant rainfall that is butted against another strong storm. "So the threat of these big, deep landslides occurring after a heavy rain year like we're seeing now may continue into the summer," he said.

The National Weather Service is also warning residents about hazardous surf and ocean conditions in Ventura Harbor through Saturday, possibly carrying over into Sunday.

Highway 150 continued to be closed Wednesday from the Santa Barbara-Ventura county line to the junction of SR 33, with no estimated time for reopening, according to Caltrans.

Authorities were "starting to get a lot more roads open" on Wednesday, said Capt. Brian McGrath, a spokesperson for the Ventura County Fire Department, "getting into areas we couldn't access before and starting to get into houses."

Updates on road closures across Ventura County are available on the Ventura County Public Works Agency's website.

Areas particularly affected by the recent storms, McGrath said, include Old Creek Road and Creek Road in Ojai, homes along the Santa Clara and Ventura rivers and Upper Ojai.

Santa Barbara County

All evacuation and shelter in place orders in Santa Barbara are lifted, but residents are warned to continue to avoid flooded areas and watch for potential rock falls on roads.

Westbound Highway 154 was still closed Wednesday from Route 192 to Route 246.

Updates on other local road closures are reported on Santa Barbara County’s website.

Preparing For The Next Storms

The upcoming weekend storms, forecast to start late Friday night and continue through Sunday morning, aren't expected to pack as much punch as the last one, according to the National Weather Service.

Ryan Kittell, a forecaster with the NWS, said 1-2 inches are expected for most of L.A. and Ventura counties with 2-4 inches possible in the mountains and foothills. Orange County is expecting around 1 inch of rain.

"The storm that we had earlier this week was basically something we see every 10 or so years," Kittell said. "So the rest of the storms this winter will likely be similar to what we usually see. And this is a pretty standard storm over the weekend."

He said there could still be minor flooding issues this weekend like roadway flooding and small creek runoff.

Bryan La Sota, spokesperson for the L.A. County Office of Emergency Management, encouraged people to be prepared in case things change.

"We have seen it before that forecasts can change and the conditions can change drastically," La Sota said. "So we do encourage everybody to take it seriously and to take those steps now to be prepared for it and to put plans in place."

Additional reporting from Rebecca Gutierrez and Nate Perez.

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Updated January 11, 2023 at 4:14 PM PST
This story has been updated with details of the damage to The Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach.
Updated January 11, 2023 at 4:00 PM PST
This story has been updated with additional information on road closures in Ventura County.
Updated January 11, 2023 at 3:16 PM PST
This story has been updated with details from The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power on rain water collection.