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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spring Gets Wet Start as Powerful Pacific Storm Soaks Malibu

BY ANNE SOBLE


It was ark-building time in Malibu last weekend as Malibu was pummeled by a powerful Pacific storm that even had local ducks scrambling for cover.
Despite forecasts from some of the Southland’s most preeminent meteorologists that the ocean is experiencing La Niña conditions that usually indicate dry or drier weather, local rainfall records continue to be exceeded.
Rain gauges on Point Dume and in Malibu Park recorded upwards of four inches of rain during Sunday’s torrent, while those in western Malibu, traditionally the heaviest local rainfall area, indicated seven or more inches of precipitation.
Add wind gusts clocked at 55 mph on hand-held weather meters and residents kept asking themselves whether this really was the spring equinox.
Tree limbs and branches were everywhere. There were several reports of downed fences and rails. The water runoff and the mudflow did not call for evacuations, but that doesn’t make the cleanup task any more palatable.
Traffic on Pacific Coast Highway and the mountain through-routes moved slowly, compounded by ponding, rockfalls, an errant water hydrant, and light signal and other repair issues.
Even though local motorists have been forewarned that a series of construction projects on the eastern end of PCH may have a major cumulative impact on traffic for two years or so, this week indicated that adding weather into the mix could be paralyzing.
Residents are also reminded that saturated hillsides will be prone to movement for several weeks to months after the rains are over. After two dry days, huge boulders fell on Malibu Canyon Road Tuesday. The same might happen on Kanan and other roads as soil contracts in response to changes in moisture levels.
Motorists are advised to stay alert for intermittent closures triggered by earth movement.
Adding to the stress of the rain aftermath, a 3.3 earthquake was felt in the greater Malibu area at 11:56 p.m. on Monday. The small temblor was located three miles out in the ocean.
More spectacular was the fire hydrant sheared off in a vehicle accident just after dawn Tuesday that spewed gushing water five stories high on PCH east of Big Rock. Traffic maneuvered around the spectacle that took over an hour to be shut down.
On the bright side, the city’s ambitious 20th birthday celebration on Sunday looks to be rain free. Everyone should be in the mood for a festive occasion after having dealt with a week of the winter that doesn’t want to end.

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