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Soggy San Diego Assesses Storm Damage

A stronger, colder trough of low pressure from the northwest brought wave after wave of heavy rain to San Diego County early today, hammering a region that was already saturated with several inches of rainfall since last Friday.

The unusually wet storm pattern has dropped upwards of almost 3.5 inches of moisture along the coast, nearly 5 inches in the valleys and nearly 12 inches in some mountain areas, National Weather Service meteorologists said.

In addition to getting a good drenching, San Diego International Airport was under a weather warning overnight due to the prospect of sustained southerly winds of 25 knots and gusts up to 30 knots. The advisory, which went into effect at 2 a.m., was scheduled to expire at noon.

The relentless downpours has caused commercial and residential flooding throughout San Diego County, and the need for some swift-water rescues.

Mission Valley was especially hard hit.

About 50 people had to be rescued from the Premier Hotel at Hotel Circle Place which was surrounded by 3 feet of water. Rescuers ferried the hotel guests in rafts attached to nylon tethers. No injuries were reported, but medics did take two of the evacuees to the hospital for evaluation. Several of those rescued reported trouble breathing as well as heart- and diabetes-related issues. Two of the women evacuated were pregnant

The nearby Riverwalk Golf Course was almost completely submerged, as were parking lots at Fashion Valley Mall, at Qualcomm Stadium and at many businesses and residential complexes as the river surged over its banks.

At 9 a.m., the National Weather Service said flooding was occurring at a "stage of 13.3 feet" and will continue until it crests around 13.9 feet -- 2.6 feet above flood stage. The river has not reached this flood level for nearly 13 years; it crested at 12.8 feet in February 1998.

The river is expected to fall below flood stage around 11 tonight.

With considerably more strong precipitation predicted for the region today, a flash flood watch was scheduled to remain in effect through this afternoon.

In South San Diego County, the Tijuana River breached its banks this morning, flooding some ranch and farm land. Ranchers and livestock owners were urged earlier this week to move their animals -- and themselves -- to higher ground. Despite the flooding, no serious problems have been reported in the Tijuana River Valley.

More than 8,000 San Diego Gas and Electric customers lost power this morning, due to the storm. The largest single outage affecting upwards of 3,000 customers in southern Poway, according to the utility. As of 7 a.m., power remained out for all the affected customers.

Motorists, meanwhile, have had plenty of their own problems to deal with on the county's wet roadways. On Monday, the California Highway Patrol logged 220 accidents in the San Diego region between midnight and 10 p.m. On Tuesday, the agency logged 343 in the region during the same time frame.

By comparison, the state agency typically responds to 50 to 75 crashes over a full day of fair weather.

So far today, the CHP has logged 101 accidents in the San Diego area between midnight and 9 a.m.

It was so wet even Shamu took the day off.

SeaWorld decided to cancel its shows and close the park today, due to rain and flooding, a rare occurrance. The last time SeaWorld had an unscheduled closing was in January of this year because of weather. Essential staffers will still be on duty at the park.

Adding to motorists' headaches, the cloudbursts has also resulted in partial or full closures of dozens of streets and highways.

The county Office of Emergency Services advised San Diego-area residents to keep abreast of the progress of the storm by:

-- monitoring local television and radio stations for flood warnings;

-- getting the latest forecast details from the National Weather Service at www.nws.gov/sandiego .

-- knowing how to shut off electricity at the home fuse panel and gas at the meter;

-- avoiding downed power lines, broken glass and flooded roads; and

-- getting information about road closures at http://sdcdpw.org/emergency .

For those who need to protect their homes or businesses from possible floodwaters, free sandbags are available at the following facilities:

-- Cal Fire Station 73, 28205 N. Lake Wohlford Road, Valley Center;

-- Cal Fire Station 7, 16971 State Route 76, Valley Center;

-- Cal Fire Station 50, 1587 State Route 78, Julian;

-- Cal Fire Mount Woodson Station, 16310 State Route 67, Ramona;

-- North County Fire Protection District Station 4, 4375 Pala Mesa Drive, Fallbrook;

-- Cal Fire Station 30, 17304 Highway 94, Dulzura; and

-- Kit Carson Park Amphitheater, 3333 Bear Valley Parkway, Escondido.

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