Calif. firefighters rescue 14 motorists stranded by flood
Swift water rescue crews pulled the stranded motorists from their cars; no injuries were reported
The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES — More than a dozen people in inland Southern California were rescued after a flash flood stranded their cars early Thursday during the third straight day of rain drenching the state.
Five vehicles got stuck shortly after 1 a.m. as several feet of mud and water roared over a rural road near Gilman Hot Springs north of Hemet, Riverside County Fire Department officials said.
California Highway Patrol Sgt. Adrian Horta told KABC-TV that he was able to drive his all-wheel-drive SUV alongside one car and pull a man and woman out through the driver's side window.
A Fire Department swift water rescue crew rescued the remaining motorists. In all, 14 people were pulled from their cars, but no injuries were reported.
Residents of several nearby homes were evacuated as a precautionary measure, fire officials said. Roads around the flooded area were closed, and flash flood warnings were in effect.
A diminishing Pacific storm has brought days of rain to drought-stricken California. There was some flooding and evacuations in areas where hillsides stripped bare by wildfires, but major damage was avoided despite some huge rainfall totals. One location, Yucaipa Ridge in the San Bernardino Mountains, received 9.8 inches of rain, the National Weather Service said.
Most other parts of the state received totals between 2 inches and 4 inches.
The storm dropped snow in mountains key to the state's water supply, and it made signature waterfalls flow at Yosemite National Park, including the 2,425-foot Yosemite Falls that had slowed to a trickle by mid-July.
"With the precipitation, they are looking good. They are flowing nicely," park spokeswoman Ashley Mayer said.
There were problems. The storm was the likely cause of a pair of sinkholes in San Francisco, including a 20-by-30-foot chasm in a neighborhood.
And Sacramento's rush-hour commute was disrupted by freeway flooding, with lanes blocked along Highway 51, known as Capital City Freeway, and farther north along Interstate 80.
On Tuesday, gushing water and muddy debris poured from hillsides about 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles, forcing the evacuation of about 75 homes in Camarillo Springs for much of the day.
When the order was lifted, authorities urged people to stay away voluntarily. No major damage was reported.
In Orange County, about 60 homes in rural Silverado Canyon remained under a voluntary evacuation notice. The area burned over the summer and has been the site of previous mudslides.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, the rain brought the region close to or beyond normal annual rainfall totals for the first time in years.
Just before the storm arrived, the Sierra Nevada snowpack — which counts for most of the state's water supply — was at just 24 percent of normal for this time of year. But snow was building rapidly with reports of 10 inches of snowfall at elevations of 8,000 feet.
That good news was tempered by a stark reality: California needs many more such storms to pull itself out of a three-year drought.