Advertisement

Flash floods inundate homes and overturn cars in San Diego as heavy rains sweep through much of US

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Flash floods inundated homes and overturned cars in San Diego on Monday as torrential rain swept through a large swath of the U.S., toppling trees and overflowing streets across California.

Early morning flooding hit the town of Guerneville, north of San Francisco, where a creek overflowed after more than 4 inches (10 cm) of rain fell in 24 hours. The local school district canceled classes for the day.

Later, the weather system unleashed a severe punch on the south end of the state in the second major rain event of the winter.

Floodwaters swept away vehicles and caused cars to pile on top of each other in parts of San Diego. Several feet of water inundated the Mountain View, Shelltown and Southcrest neighborhoods, and multiple highways including Interstate 15.

Eddie Ochoa, a resident of San Diego, said it was just sprinkling when he and his sister went out for breakfast Monday morning. When they returned to their family-owned auto body shop, the entire block was flooded and his sister's parked car had been washed away.

“All that happened within an hour,” Ochoa said, guessing that the sewers had backed up. They later found his sister's car about three miles (4.8 kilometers) down the street.

“It’s never been that bad, ever. It’s crazy,” he said.

Over a three-hour period, a whopping 3 inches (7.6 cm) of rain fell at nearby National City, while 2 inches (5 cm) fell at San Diego International Airport, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. During the winter, the region typically averages around 2 inches of rain per month.

Deputies pulled people to safety after water rushed into homes in the Spring Valley and Casa de Oro neighborhoods, said San Diego County Sheriff’s Lt. Zee Sanchez. Other residents escaped by wading through waist-high water carrying their cats and dogs.

“Flooding is pretty widespread out there,” Sanchez said. The department aided in a swift-water rescue near Santee, he said. No injuries were reported.

The San Diego River was flooding, the National Weather Service said, warning that crossing roads would be unsafe. The city fire department said it had rescued at least 24 people from the rushing San Diego and Tijuana rivers.

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria declared a state of emergency and the city set up shelters to house displaced residents.

The Los Angeles County Office of Emergency Management issued an evacuation warning near Topanga Canyon effective through Tuesday morning due to possible mud or debris flow.

Up north, there's an avalanche warning through Tuesday morning for the backcountry in the mountains around the Lake Tahoe area, which might see more than a foot (30 centimeters) of snow, according to The Sierra Avalanche Center in Truckee, California. The storm is expected to bring up to 8 inches (20 cm) of snow to the lake’s shores and up to 14 inches (35 cm) with winds gusting up to 60 mph (95 kph) in the highest elevations beginning late Monday.

In San Antonio, Texas, firefighters investigated whether five homeless people might have been swept away by rushing waters early Monday morning, according to fire department spokesperson Woody Woodward. They were camping in drainage tunnels next to a highway north of downtown, officials said.

Firefighters searched multiple locations, including drainage tunnels with the help of a boat, but did not find anyone.

“No individuals were found, so I cannot confirm if there were in fact five people swept away,” Woodward said, adding that the fire department had conducted 25 water rescue missions or investigation calls from late Sunday night through 8 a.m. Monday with no injuries being reported.

Some parts of the San Antonio area had received up to 5 inches (12.7 centimeters) of rain since Sunday night, according to the National Weather Service. Rainfall was also soaking Houston, Dallas, as well as various parts of north and east Texas.

In other parts of the country, as in Arkansas, there's freezing rain. Forecasters warned that up to a half-inch (1.27 centimeters) of ice could coat parts of the state by Monday evening. That prompted an ice storm warning that includes much of the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas and the cities of Fayetteville and Fort Smith. A small part of northeastern Oklahoma was also under an ice storm warning Monday, the National Weather Service said.

The ice — combined with winds of up to 20 mph (32 kph) — could lead to power outages, the agency said.

Days of subfreezing temperatures have caused water problems in multiple Arkansas cities and in Memphis, Tennessee, due to broken pipes and equipment.

Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers responded to more than 400 crashes and at least 600 stranded motorists by 3:30 p.m. Monday, Capt. John Hotz of the patrol said. Three of the accidents were fatal, including one involving a vehicle that struck a Missouri Department of Transportation truck in rural northern Missouri. A transportation department spokeswoman said the truck driver was not hurt. Portions of interstates 70 and 44 were closed at the height of the icing, with officials describing the roadways as sheets of ice.

“Just lots of slide-offs,” said Dallas Thompson, a St. Louis-area trooper.

Around the country, the wintry weather and heavy rainfall was expected to continue this week.

Freezing rain and some snowfall was predicted for parts of the Midwest, the lower Great Lakes area and the Northeast, the National Weather Service said.

Parts of Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and the Gulf Coast were predicted to have heavy showers and thunderstorms from Tuesday through Thursday, with some areas getting as much as 4 inches (10 centimeters) to 8 inches (20 centimeters) of rain through Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

___

Weber reported from Los Angeles. Juan A. Lozano in Houston, Jim Salter in O’Fallon, Missouri, Andrew DeMillo in Little Rock, Arkansas, Jeff Martin in Atlanta, Scott Sonner in Reno, Nevada, and John Antczak in Los Angeles contributed to this report.