Storm Drenches Southern California, Shuts Interstate 5

The main north-south route through California's Central Valley reopened Thursday afternoon in northern LA County.

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Drenching rains fell across a swath of Southern California and snow brought traffic to a halt on a major highway early Thursday as the last in a series of December storms that walloped the state moved through.

The Grapevine section of Interstate 5 high in the mountains north of Los Angeles was shut down due to snow and ice before dawn, the California Highway Patrol said. Lanes reopened Thursday afternoon.

Mudslides, debris flows and rock fall s caused localized problems on many roads. The city of Malibu tweeted that firefighters and lifeguards brought 22 people to safety from a flooded campground near Leo Carrillo State Beach.

The storm followed several earlier in the month that caused record snowfall and some flooding and other damage from high winds. Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday declared a state of emergency for 20 counties throughout the state because of those storms and the threat from continuing weather. The declaration expands state assistance.

Downtown Los Angeles received 2.3 inches of rain by mid-afternoon — breaking a daily record of under 2 inches set in 1936 — and more rain was expected into the evening, the National Weather Service said.

However, no major problems were reported in areas scarred by wildfires that were at risk at flooding and mudslides. Evacuation orders were lifted for three Orange County canyons.

Northern California was finally mostly free of storm warnings but chains were required on major highways through the Sierra Nevada.

Residents in higher foothill and mountain communities were digging out, with reports of major tree and power line damage in places like Foresthill and the Nevada City area, both northeast of Sacramento.

Thousand of residents remained without power, with warnings that some could be without lights and heat for another week.

On the central coast, a stretch of Highway 1 remained closed by a weekend slide in San Luis Obispo County.

California was expected to dry out for the New Year’s weekend before more wet weather.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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