LOS ANGELES (AP) — Bands of sometimes heavy rain rolled over Southern California Thursday and unleashed a mudslide that trapped cars and shut a key canyon highway through mountains along the coast near Malibu.
The front was the latest in a series of storms that have been bringing much needed rain and snow to California, which has seen a belated spate of wet weather in an otherwise largely dry winter.
The 2:30 a.m. slide blocked State Route 27 for the third time since a brush fire burned away vegetation in Topanga Canyon in January.
Mud, boulders, debris and ash flowed down a steep slope, clogged a drain and spilled onto the roadway in three locations within a span of about 1,000 feet (305 meters), the California Department of Transportation said.
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Authorities closed 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) of the road north of Pacific Coast Highway where several cars were mired in muck.
“It was raining really hard so it caught us by surprise, didn’t expect it,” Ivan Contreras told KTTV. “It was pretty horrible. Just got stuck, couldn’t drive, couldn’t even get out of the car.”
His companion, Jennifer Cruz, said she thought they might go off the edge of the road and fall down the canyon slope.
“I got scared,” she said.
Rescuers freed them, but the cleanup was not expected to be so quick despite the arrival of earth-moving equipment.
With more rain expected, Caltrans planned keep the road closed through at least Sunday night. It’s one of just a handful of routes through the Santa Monica Mountains that connect LA’s San Fernando Valley with the coast.
Smaller mud flows occurred elsewhere in Los Angeles County but were cleared quickly.
Since the deadly Jan. 9 debris flow that smashed the Santa Barbara County community of Montecito, the region has so far avoided further major storm damage despite a number large despite large wildfire burn scars.
Statewide, periods of rain and snow were expected to continue into the weekend. A winter storm warning was in effect in the Sierra Nevada and a winter weather advisory covered a large portion of far northern counties.
Los Angeles-area forecasters said there was a decent chance of even more rain next week but a low-pressure system over the Pacific had slowed down and it would take a few days to determine when a new storm may arrive.