Downpours Drench Southern California

A pedestrian helps a man in a wheelchair cross the street Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2003, under the protection of umbrellas in the McArthur Park area of Los Angeles.
A storm that brought heavy rains to Southern California and caused mudslides, power outages and street flooding slowly moved out of the area Thursday, but another system is expected to bring more rain this weekend, forecasters said.

Light to moderate scattered showers are expected Thursday throughout Southern California, most likely dropping less than an inch of rain, said National Weather Service meteorologist Curt Kaplan.

"The worst is over," Kaplan said.

California Edison told CBS Radio Station KNX-AM Thursday morning all power had been restored.

On Wednesday, rainfall amounts were more than double and triple previous records. Mount Wilson in Pasadena recorded 7.68 inches of precipitation, besting the 2001 record for the date by 4.34 inches.

In some areas traffic accidents had more than quadrupled from the same period last week when the weather was dry. Just as the Wednesday night rush hour was beginning, the California Highway Patrol had recorded about 1,500 accidents in Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties. One driver was killed Tuesday in Lancaster.

Several motorists were rescued from vehicles stuck in water rushing over roads or in flooded low-lying areas as rivers, washes and arroyos overflowed.

Two people were rescued in San Bernardino in a daring rescue that involved a sheriff's helicopter hovering just inches from their partially submerged pickup truck. A man also had to be carried to safety by helicopter in Ventura after the riverbank where he had been living the past two days eroded to the point he was in danger of being swept into the Ventura River.

The storm closed four southbound lanes of Interstate 5 in the Tejon Pass north of Los Angeles when it sent a mile-long wall of mud crashing onto the highway linking Los Angeles to San Francisco. The mud was as deep as 4 feet in some areas, said CHP Sgt. Travis Mitchell of Bakersfield.

Power to more than 1,200 customers in Ventura, Santa Barbara and Orange counties was knocked out, said Southern California Edison spokesman Gil Alexander. Another 4,100 Los Angeles Department of Water and Power consumers also lost power and heat.

In Orange County, two workers at a Fullerton furniture firm were hurt when rain caused a 15-foot by 15-foot section of the roof to collapse. The workers both were hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries.

Southern California was in need of some rain, after coming off the second-warmest January on record for Los Angeles, with many days of summerlike heat and dryness.

"We had six weeks without rain, and we've just made up for it," said NWS spokesman Bruce Rockwell.

The heavy rains came from a storm system located off the Baja Peninsula about 600 miles out to sea. Such storms tend to bring heavier rains than those originating in the north because the warm southern air can hold more moisture, weather service spokesman Rockwell said.

The rain was a curse for mountain ski resorts, however. In the San Bernardino Mountains, the rain forced Big Bear Mountain and Snow Summit to close Wednesday, only weeks after the resorts had finally been able to produce enough snow to open nearly all runs.

Forecasters said another storm will likely reach Southern California by Saturday and drop moderate amounts of rain.