Punishing Storm Pounds County

River overflows, levee breaks as storm rages for fourth day.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Robert W. Scott

    The most powerful system of the week slammed into San Diego County Thursday bringing heavy rains, dangerous winds and major flooding.

    The San Diego River was expected to overflow, causing significant flooding, according to the National Weather Service. Areas threatened with flooding include Avenida del Rio, Fashion Valley Road and the parking lots at Fashion Valley.

    Farther south, a levee gave way in the Tijuana River Valley, flooding nearby ranches and agriculture fields. Officials don't expect the broken levee to threaten anyone's safety, but the flooding seemed sure to further damage crops already compromised by the days of rain. It also seemed possible that the rising waters could damage some outbuildings.

    Winds 'Sounded Like Thunder'

    [DGO] Winds 'Sounded Like Thunder'
    Even a Caltrans inspector felt this was the work of a tornado.

    About two dozen homes at the Rincon Indian Reservation were evacuated when a small bank gave way behind a row of houses  Thursday morning.

    An AT&T employee survived being buried underneath a huge tree that fell on him in Clairemont.  Frank Martinez said he was crossing the street around 10 a.m. on Balboa Arms Drive when he says the tree came out of nowhere. Police say a driving instructor and his student jumped out of their car to pull him out from underneath the tree. Martinez was taken to the hospital with pain in his shoulder.

    Work crews scooped up massive amounts of dirt and mud after a morning mudslide on the 25-thousand block of Lake Wohlford Rd blocked the road. Crews estimated the mudslide was made up of about 200 cubic yards of dirt. The slide is about a half mile east of Valley Parkway. Crews say it will take several hours to clean up.

    The storm caused two street closures in Ramona.  Magnolia Avenue North of Julian Road was closed to traffic as water levels in the Santa Maria Creek swelled. Many drivers were forced to turn around and take a detour, as the water was approximately 12 inches deep. One of them was Ramona resident, Ron Mackenzie, who was surprised by the closure.

    "Most of the year, even in rainy years it's pretty dry. But today, I drove up to it and I couldn't get through," he said.

    Those with vehicles with higher ground clearance drove through the flooded area anyway.

    Ramona St. was also flooded at H St. but only on the northbound lane.  Road closure signs were posted in both directions.

    A truck jack-knifed along northbound I-805 at Plaza Bouevard. The driver veered off the interstate towards the offramp.

    Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced from Washington, D.C. that he would declare a state of emergency because of the damage caused up and down the state this week.

    San Diego Gas & Electric reported dozens of outages Thursday. (Check here for latest outages)

    Southwest Airlines temporarily suspended about 75 flights out of Lindbergh Field due to weather conditions. The airline planned to resume flights possibly after 4 p.m. Thursday.  Passengers will be booked on later Southwest flights. Airport spokeswoman Diana Lucero says Southwest is the largest airline at the airport, carrying about one of every three passengers there. Other airlines are operating normally, with some delays.

    Amtrak trains were temporarily suspended Thursday afternoon because of water on the tracks in Sorrento Valley.

    A driver learned the hard way that this wasn’t the day for shopping at Fashion Valley. San Diego Fire was called to rescue the driver whose SUV was surrounded by water, which was pouring into the first floor of nearby parking garages. Drivers were asked to avoid the south entrance of the Fashion Valley mall.

    San Diego Fire Rescue was also keeping an eye on the water levels in the Tijuana River Valley. At Hollister just north of Monument, the storm runoff was rising but not overflowing as of 10 a.m. Thursday.

    National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for parts of the county  until 1:30 p.m. 

    Earlier, a severe thunderstorm warning was in effect from noon until 1 p.m. PT indicating a system capable of producing destructive winds in excess of 80 mph.

    The National Weather Service has released some estimates of just how much rain we've gotten over the last three days. Here are the preliminary totals as of 10:30 a.m. Thursday:

    Oceanside         3.26
    Fashion Valley  3.78
    Brown Field       2.38
    Ramona             4.10
    Fallbrook            3.19
    Poway                 3.66
    Julian                  3.35
    Palomar Mt         6.97

    El Capitan High School in Lakeside was closed for a second day Thursday because of power outages. Grossmont High School was also out of power so students were told school was closed Thursday. Loma Portal Elementary was also closed Thursday.

    SeaWorld San Diego closed to guests Thursday because of the rain. The last time the theme park closed due to weather was 1998.

    Click here for an interactive map of the region. Send in your storm images to isee@nbcsandiego.com.