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Rain Pummels Burn Areas, Shuts Down PCH, Magic Mountain Before Heading Out

SANTA CLARITA (CBSLA) – Another storm system soaked the Southland Wednesday and put on a spectacular overnight lightning show before it slowly moved out of the area by late afternoon.

At one point, the National Weather Service recorded about 1,500 lightning pulses off the coast during just a five-minute stretch. A lightning strike also forced a Delta flight out of L.A. International Airport which was bound to Seattle to return to LAX Tuesday night.

The storm left slick and muddy roads in Malibu, with several residents lining their homes with sandbags. A small rockslide shut down a portion of Malibu Canyon Road at around 7 a.m.

Six Flags Magic Mountain in Santa Clarita was forced to shut down for the day due to the stormy weather. A portion of the southbound Pacific Coast Highway in Huntington Beach was also closed due to flooding.

Lightning Santa Barbara
Lighting strikes in the skies above Santa Barbara, Calif., as seen from Stearns Wharf. May 5, 2019. (Credit: Santa Barbara County Fire Department Public Information Officer Mike Eliason/Twitter)

During the brunt of the storm, the National Weather Service reported heavy rain on the Ventura County side of the Woolsey Fire burn area.

"Be careful if driving across canyon roads as rockslides and minor debris flows could occur," it warned on Twitter.

At around 3:30 a.m., a tanker-truck traveling down the 5 Freeway in Sylmar slipped down an embankment and crashed down below onto the Sierra Highway on-ramp to the northbound 14 Freeway, which is mostly a trucking route. The driver was not hurt and the tanker was empty at the time. A Sig Alert was issued while crews cleared the scene.

Big rig tanker truck crash Sylmar
A tanker-truck went down an embankment and crashed onto the on-ramp from the Sierra Highway to the northbound 14 Freeway in Sylmar. March 6, 2019. (CBS2)

The storm was caused by an atmospheric river, also known as a subtropical plume, out of Hawaii. Atmospheric rivers are a long narrow stream of tropical moisture in the atmosphere that can result in heavy rain or snowfall.

"We are dealing with so much rain right now," Lee said early Wednesday morning. "We had the lightning, we had the thunder overnight, and that's because how much unstable air moved into the air. A subtropical plume coming in, and now a cold front right behind it. So that's going to bring us a lot more of this scattered showers, turning more widespread."

The worst of the storm hit L.A. and Ventura counties during morning rush hour. CBS2 Meteorologist Amber Lee explained that once the cold front caught up with the subtropical plume, the region would experience heavier rain bursts. Showers were expected to continue throughout the day, but taper off by Wednesday night.

A flash flood watch for all burn areas in Ventura and Los Angeles counties expired at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

The brunt of the storm passed through Santa Barbara County by 5:30 a.m. and the flash flood watch there was canceled there. All evacuation orders for the Thomas, Whittier and Sherpa fire burn areas in Santa Barbara County that were instituted Tuesday afternoon were lifted at 8 a.m.

Across Ventura and Los Angeles counties, crews were on alert for flooding in the Thomas, Hill, Woolsey, Stone, South, Creek and La Tuna burn scars.

In the wake of November's Woolsey Fire, Malibu residents in the burn area have been forced to evacuate numerous times as a series of storms have pounded the region. Several major coastal and canyon highways, including the Pacific Coast Highway, have been closed by flooding or rockslides.

The 97,000-acre Woolsey Fire broke out south of Simi Valley on Nov. 8. It then jumped the south side of the 101 Freeway near Calabasas and spread into Malibu. The fire destroyed more than 1,500 structures and was responsible for three deaths. It was not fully contained until Nov. 21.

In December of 2017, the Thomas Fire broke out near Thomas Aquinas College in Ventura County. It burned more than 281,000 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties over about six weeks. Two people were killed, including a state firefighter. The flames destroyed more than 1,000 buildings.


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