Thursday, December 23, 2010

[californiadisasters] Storm lashes California and leaves polluted water

Storm lashes California and leaves polluted water
By NOAKI SCHWARTZ, Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - California residents who endured flooding, mudslides and
evacuations during a weeklong onslaught of rain now have another problem:
contaminated water and fouled beaches.
The rain washed trash, pesticides and bacteria into waterways, prompting
health warnings. Four beaches were closed in Northern California's San Mateo
County, and another 12 miles of beach from Laguna Beach to San Clemente in
Southern California's Orange County were off-limits because of sewer
Numerous motorists were rescued from swamped cars during the days of rain,
but one driver was killed. The body of Angela Wright, 39, of Menifee was
recovered from a car that was swept off a flooded road Wednesday near Canyon
Lake in Riverside County, the coroner's office said.
While the rain has eased, the danger was not over for foothill residents
living below wildfire-scarred hillsides.
"The ground is so saturated it could move at any time" and the threat will
remain for several weeks, said Bob Spencer, spokesman for the Los Angeles
County Department of Public Works.
More than 200 homes were ordered evacuated for more than 24 hours in La
Canada Flintridge and La Crescenta, suburbs of Los Angeles below steep
hillsides that burned in 2009 and where mudslides inundated homes and
backyards in February.
After days of relentless rain, long-awaited sunshine was finally in the
forecast for Thursday, but officials said Californians may want to resist
the urge to head to the ocean.
"It can be very nice the next day and everyone says 'This is great! This is
a beach day,'" said Jonathan E. Fielding, director of the Los Angeles county
public health department. "It could well be but we will be monitoring and
testing water and we won't recommend people go back there until we're sure
it's safe."
Experts normally recommend waiting 72 hours after a storm before getting in
the water, though in this case some are saying five days might be wiser. The
contamination in some areas could last for weeks because of the especially
heavy rains.
Mark Gold, president of Heal the Bay, a Santa Monica based group that
monitors and grades beach water quality, said more rain causes more
pollution to get flushed into the region's water system
"Literally every beach gets an 'F' when we get a rain storm like this," he
said. "It's big enough to pollute each and every beach in LA County. It's a
pretty extraordinary event when we have rain like this."
Sixty people were rescued and more than 30 homes evacuated Wednesday when
water surged through Dove Canyon, a gated Orange County community.
In Highland, about 65 miles east of Los Angeles, two creeks overflowed,
swamping as many as 20 homes in up to 3 feet of mud. Up to 40 homes and
around 100 residents were evacuated.
In San Diego, the first floor of the Premier Inn in the city's Mission
Valley flooded, forcing guests to the second floor where lifeguards were
sent to rescue them, police said. SeaWorld San Diego closed for the day as
waters rose in the nearby San Diego River, but it was expected to reopen on
Amtrak said the Pacific Surfliner train service between San Diego and San
Juan Capistrano was being suspended Thursday because of threats of mudslides
and high water.
The storm weakened as it moved eastward, but floods still washed away six
vacant homes and damaged nearly two dozen others in the Beaver Dam area of
northwest Arizona, and inundated parts of Nevada and Utah. The low-pressure
system could reach the Gulf Coast by Saturday with some rain, forecasters


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