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LA Starts Cleaning Up From Record Rainfall, Mudslides

downtown skyline winter storm
The Downtown L.A. skyline from Elysian Park after the storm on Jan. 5.
(Samanta Helou Hernandez
/
LAist)
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Crews across Los Angeles and Southern California are working to reopen roads, repair damage, and eliminate hazards after back-to-back storms that brought record rainfall, mudslides, and flooding to the region.

Over the weekend, L.A. Mayor Karen Bass declared a state of emergency in the city to aid recovery.

The declaration, which aligns with emergency orders from both the state and county, cites storm damage such as downed power lines, flooding, road closures and mud and debris flows.

Officials have meanwhile issued a winter weather advisory for the mountains and foothills of L.A. and Orange counties, warning of dangerous roads and urging people to avoid mountain roads and hiking trails. Some roads in the Angeles National Forest remain closed.

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Surveying The Damages

The storms that pummeled L.A. have led to some major mudslides that are clogging up the network of freeways below Elysian Park.

A mudslide forced the closure Monday of a section of the southbound 5 near Stadium Way and the connector from the 5 south to the 110 south.

“Because of the significant erosion that took place during this historic ... series of storms, material that held rocks in place could be weakened. And, in fact, that is part of the mud and rocks that flowed downhill,” said Caltrans spokesperson Michael Comeaux.

He said engineers are trying to put together a plan that could include repairing or replacing some of the metal netting that keeps rocks from falling onto the 5 or even having crews scale the hillside to remove large rocks. As of 3:30 p.m. Monday, there was no estimate as to when that section of roadway would reopen.

Comeaux said crews are also working to clear a weekend mudslide on the 5 in Castaic.

And there has been more damage: several cars were crushed by a falling tree over the weekend in Woodland Hills.

On Sunday, firefighters rescued a man from a channel in Stanton. On Saturday, firefighters used a helicopter to rescue a woman clinging to a tree above Aliso Creek in Laguna Hills.

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Record Rainfall

The winter storm set rainfall records across L.A. County.

Downtown L.A. saw 1.82 inches of rain on Saturday, breaking the old record of 1.56 in 1978.

LAX and Long Beach Airport also broke their records from 1978, surpassing more than 1.5 inches of rainfall.

Storm Water Capture

With all that rainfall does come some good news: we captured 2 billion gallons of rainwater in L.A. County.

"That would be like serving the needs of a city like La Mirada or Azusa for an entire year," said L.A. County Department of Public Works spokesperson Steven Frasher.

The news is even better if you go back to October — since then, we have captured enough water to serve more than 800,000 people for a year.

The county is working to expand its water capture capacity using money from Measure W, a parcel tax county voters approved in 2018.

Conservation Still Key

So what do multiple rounds of heavy rain mean for Los Angeles? Should you still be monitoring your water usage?

Short answer: yes.

"We're always encouraging Californians to be smart with their water usage," said County Department of Water Resources spokesperson Ryan Endean. "And so that doesn't really change depending on how many storms we see. That's just good practice going forward in California."

Californians should make water conservation a way of life, Endean said. The agency says local water providers will provide guidance on whether there will be any water restrictions this summer.

What about watering your grass? You may want to let it dry before turning your sprinklers back on.

Ernesto Arce, Phoenix Tso, Nate Perez, Julia Paskin, and Gillian Moran Pérez contributed to this story.

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