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Public Safety

Stormy Weather Continues To Douse San Diego Region

Firefighters pass fast-moving muddy water during the fourth storm of the week on January 21, 2010 in La Canada Flintridge, California.
David McNew
Firefighters pass fast-moving muddy water during the fourth storm of the week on January 21, 2010 in La Canada Flintridge, California.

A blustery storm front drenched and frosted the San Diego area for a fifth straight day today, delivering a wet, icy and snowy finale to the spate of severe winter conditions.

The latest round of cloudbursts proved less torrential than those that arrived Thursday, when steady downpours and powerful winds flooded roadways by the dozen, felled trees throughout the county, shut down schools, delayed train service, canceled scores of airline flights and forced the first climate-related closure at SeaWorld since 1998.

The National Weather Service estimated that a total of up to an inch of rain was possible today at the coast, 1.5 to 2 inches in the foothills and 2 to 3 inches on coastal mountain slopes.

Over a six-hour period ending at 11 a.m., the unstable atmospheric system dropped 0.72 inches of precipitation at Lake Henshaw; 0.63 in Descanso; 0.58 in Coyote Creek Canyon; 0.4 in Santa Ysabel; 0.39 in Julian; 0.32 in Rincon Springs; 0.27 in Tierra del Sol; 0.25 in Santee; 0.22 in Kearny Mesa; 0.17 in Bonita; 0.16 in Escondido; 0.12 in La Mesa; 0.11 in downtown San Diego; and 0.04 in Carlsbad and Encinitas.

During the same approximate time span, roughly 10,000 residences and businesses in the county lost power for a time due to the storm, according to San Diego Gas & Electric.

At daybreak, the California Highway Patrol reported snowfall in the East County highlands, starting at about the 4,000-foot level, and was advising motorists to avoid the Julian area for the time being due to hazardous road conditions. Tire chains were required for those driving on the Sunrise Highway, the CHP advised.

Through the week, firefighters trained in swift-water rescue came the aide of a number of motorists who ill-advisedly attempted to drive through flooded stretches of road and became stuck.

On Thursday, Cal Fire firefighters rescued two dogs trapped in an abandoned pickup truck stuck in a flooded creek in Valley Center, said Nick Schuler, a battalion chief with the state agency. The swift-water rescue in the 12600 block of Betsworth Road played out around 3:30 p.m., he said.

A day earlier, emergency crews pulled two people from a vehicle stuck in the same flooded creek area.

Other swiftwater operations conducted in the San Diego region this week included the rescue of three men who tried to cross the swollen Tijuana River just north of the U.S.-Mexico border.

The rough weather contributed to at least one death in the county. On Tuesday, Flinn Springs resident Linda Flick, 58, was crushed when a tree roughly 10 feet in diameter buckled under strong wind gusts and fell onto her mobile home.

Though the main front of this week's fourth storm had left the region by this morning, a flash flood watch remained in effect through this afternoon for coastal, valley and mountain areas below 4,500. Mountain locales also were under a winter storm warning scheduled to expire in the early evening.

Sunny skies are expected this weekend, followed by warmer temperatures and overall fair weather on Monday, according to the weather service. Forecasters predict that rains may return Tuesday and Wednesday, though in considerably milder form than those that hit this week.

The surf will remain high along beaches through Sunday night, particularly today into Saturday, when breakers over 20 feet are possible on the outside reefs, according to the NWS. A coastal flood watch remains in effect until 4 a.m. Saturday and a high surf advisory until 2 a.m. Monday.