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Mudslide Closes PCH As Storm Brings Thunder, Lightning And Evacuations To SoCal

Caltrans workers respond to a mudslide on Pacific Coast Highway, which as closed the roadway between Los Posas Road and Broad Beach Road as the first of two storm systems hit Southern California on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019. (Courtesy Caltrans via Twitter)
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It's been raining more than usual in Southern California these past several months -- but why stop now? A pair of storm systems are settling into the region and could bring more than four inches of rain by the time they pass early next week, according to forecasters.

The National Weather Service predicts up to an inch of rain will fall Thursday in much of L.A. County, including Santa Clarita, Malibu, Woodland Hills, downtown L.A. and Long Beach.

But the second storm system, on track to arrive Friday night and stay into Saturday, "will likely be much stronger," according to NWS officials, who predicted up to 3 inches of rain could fall in some areas.

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Snowfall is also expected in the mountains during that second storm and could reach as low as 5,000 feet.

Thunderstorms started rolling into the west L.A. Metro area Thursday morning, bringing lighting strikes, which led to the closure of Zuma Beach in Malibu.

"Other beaches are being monitored and may be closed depending on storm activity and direction," Malibu city officials said.

Pacific Coast Highway is open after mudslides caused closures at Broad Beach Boulevard, Deer Creek Road and between Trancas Canyon Road and Las Posas Road.

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The Los Angeles Fire Department is working to rescue a man trapped in the LA River with his bike near Griffith park.

A signal is flashing red at PCH and Carbon Canyon, and an electrical storm with lightning has been reported in Santa Monica, where city officials are advising people to evacuate all ocean and beach areas.

Route 23 is closed going northbound from PCH to Mulholland Highway.

The storm also disrupted air travel for JetBlue passengers on a flight out of LAX when their plane was possibly struck by lightning shortly after takeoff. The crew returned to the airport for an emergency landing and arrived safely about 11:15 a.m., according to a JetBlue spokesperson.

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"Crews will inspect the aircraft and determine if it may continue on to New York or if customers will be accommodated on another aircraft," the airline said in a statement. JetBlue's statement did not say whether anyone aboard the plane was injured in the incident.

Both storms bring the threat of gusty winds, downed trees, flash flood warnings and potentially dangerous debris flows in canyons and other areas that have burned in recent wildfires.

Those threats are already playing out in Riverside County, where mandatory evacuation orders have been issued for several communities in and around the Holy Fire burn zone.

"People in these zones MUST GO NOW," emergency officials wrote in a press release Thursday morning.

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Riverside County residents can find more information on the county's emergency management department website.

NWS has issued a flash flood watch for the the burn zones of the Woolsey, Stone and South fires due to the possibility of mud and debris flows, in effect until 3 p.m.

Storm No. 2 will be followed by scattered showers Sunday through Monday, forecasters said.

While all that rain could cause chaos on roads and in vulnerable burn zones, it'll boost what's so far been an above-average water year in greater Los Angeles. Heavy rain earlier this month put us comfortably above the pace for what we see in a typical water year, which measures rainfall from October to the following September.

Currently, the metric shows Southern California has already received about 61 percent of a normal year's precipitation (typically we're hovering around 50 percent right about now). But that number will climb again after these coming storms.


For updates throughout Thursday, including lists of road closures, evacuation orders, and flood warnings, check the following sites:

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.


4:36 p.m.: This article was updated to note that PCH has reopened.

2:20 p.m.: This article was updated with information about a rescue effort in the LA River.

1:42 p.m.: This article was updated with new information on the Pacific Coast Highway closure.

12:44 p.m.: This article was updated with information about the closure at Broad Beach Road.

12:20 p.m.: This article was updated with information about an emergency landing at LAX.

10:52 a.m.: This article was updated with new information about a closure on Pacific Coast Highway.

10:05 a.m.: This article was updated with new information about mud flow on Pacific Coast Highway and an electrical storm in Santa Monica.

9:15 a.m.: This article was updated with new information from NWS, the Ventura County Fire Department and the city of Malibu.

This article was originally published at 7:43 a.m.

Jessica P. Ogilvie and Brian Frank contributed to this report.