Death toll and destruction mount as storm pounds Southern California

Grace Toohey, Priscella Vega and Ashley Ahn, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Weather News

LOS ANGELES — Rainfall from a deadly atmospheric river storm has already smashed records in Southern California, but the severe weather did not let up Tuesday, as more mud and debris flows inundated roads and forced evacuations.

The death toll from the storm climbed and included the first storm-related death in Southern California. Officials are concerned the number could grow once the water recedes.

That could take days, though, officials said, as rain was expected to persist across the Southland through at least Wednesday, with some heavy precipitation still possible.

“Do not let your guard down,” Ariel Cohen, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Oxnard, said Tuesday during a briefing in Los Angeles. “There could still be some very significant impacts.”

It will take “very little additional rain” to cause increased flooding or mudslides and debris flows, he said, as played out Tuesday in Hacienda Heights and La Habra Heights in east Los Angeles County. They were the latest hilly communities to see devastating damage from the historic rainfall.

Firefighters on Tuesday morning evacuated three homes on Gotera Drive in Hacienda Heights after back-to-back debris flows damaged at least one house and left two others unsafe, Los Angeles County Fire Department spokesperson Christian Reynoso said.


No one was injured, but “we’re still keeping an eye on the hillside,” Reynoso said, hours after the land gave way. “There’s still some potential that there is more mud that comes down. We’re still expecting a little bit more rain, so we’re on standby.”

In her 40 years in Hacienda Heights, Deann Rankin, who lives not far from Tuesday’s mudslides, said she had experienced many strong storms but never a mudslide in her neighborhood.

There’s been “nothing like this magnitude” of rain, saturating the hillside “to where there is concern of the hill coming down,” the 58-year-old said. “We’ve never seen anything like that.”

Nearby, an almost three-mile stretch of Hacienda Road in La Habra Heights was closed after a major debris flow swallowed much of the street.


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