More than a week of rain left Southern California roads under a foot or more of murky water Wednesday, opened huge sinkholes in freeways and brought production of some of TV’s glamour shows to a halt.
Eight deaths statewide have been blamed on nine days of storms that have dropped more than a foot of rain in some areas and forced the evacuation of thousands of people from the wine country north of San Francisco to the fire-ravaged hillsides of Southern California.
The state Office of Emergency Services reported a preliminary damage estimate of $66 million, but that figure doesn’t include hard-hit Los Angeles and Santa Barbara counties.
Emergency crews and homeowners used a brief respite in the weather to clear muck and debris, fortify sandbag barriers and fill sinkholes. But more rain was expected late Wednesday and today, and forecasters said a stronger storm is off the coast, poised to strike over the weekend.
“We love this house and we love this city, but today, I’ve got to tell you, we hate this rain,” said Deedee Gene of Altadena, 10 miles northeast of Los Angeles.
She kept a wary eye on the soaked 150-foot hillside above her back yard, where she and her husband had dug a trench and laid pipe to divert water running toward their yard.
President Clinton has declared 24 California counties disaster areas.”You are a people who come together in times of crisis,” Clinton said in Washington. “The American people are with you.”
The weather created havoc in freeway-dependent Southern California as motorists tried to navigate roads with pools of water up to their car doors.
A sewer line collapsed in Industry, 22 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, creating a large sinkhole that swallowed a car. Neighbors lowered a ladder into the hole, and the driver escaped with only minor injuries. Other sinkholes were reported throughout Los Angeles County.
The Pacific Coast Highway was shut down in Malibu after a widening crack was discovered in an aging bridge over swollen Malibu Creek.
Down the highway at Tuna Canyon, the road was blocked by tons of dirt from a collapsed hillside. Tractors scooped up the debris, and dump trucks unloaded it on the beach.