Mudslide Sweeps California Freeway 'Like a Freight Train' - NBC4 Washington
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Mudslide Sweeps California Freeway 'Like a Freight Train'

Drivers were stranded overnight after flash flooding sent car-sized boulders and mud onto the main route between Los Angeles and the Central Valley. Nearly 200 vehicles were stranded on Highway 58 near Bakersfield

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Crews Clear Mud Off Highways

    Crews make progress in digging out the flooded communities west of Palmdale. Patrick Healy reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 16, 2015. (Published Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015)

    Traffic was gridlocked along a stretch of the 101 Freeway during the evening commute Friday as motorists in the Los Angeles area tried to find alternate routes after mudslides closed Interstate 5 and a man threatened to jump from an overpass.

    A man perched on the edge of an overpass prompted the closure of the Hollywood (101) Freeway in Studio City. Authorities were notified about 1:35 p.m. that the man was on the Lankershim Boulevard overpass, Los Angeles Police Officer Jack Richter said. Both sides of the freeway were closed as the man moved from side to side, police said. He was eventually taken into custody without incident.

    The northbound freeway was closed at Lankershim Boulevard, while the southbound side was closed at Vineland Avenue. Northbound traffic was backed up to downtown Los Angeles as the afternoon commute got underway, according to SigAlert.com. The freeway was expected to reopen shortly.

    In Castaic, flash flooding from a storm on Thursday sent boulders, mud and debris onto Southern California freeways, blocking roads in a matter of seconds, forcing the closure of the state's major north-south route and leaving nearly 200 vehicles trapped on a desert highway.

    The prospect of more thunderstorms and heavy rain threatened Southern California on Friday, a day after rain sent sludge onto the 5 Freeway, the main artery between Los Angeles and California's Central Valley. Some drivers camped overnight in their vehicles at fuel stations in Castaic and other communities near the closure between Fort Tejon north of Gorman and Parker Road.

    The 5 Freeway's northbound lanes reopened at midday. Two lanes of the southbound 5 Freeway have been reopened in the Grapevine area. Two lanes, along with the truck bypass lanes, remain closed.

    Drivers said the road was covered in about 30 seconds when downpours lashed northern Los Angeles County.

    "It was just like a freight train coming through," a driver told NBC4.

    Myron Green's big rig was trapped for five hours in the mud.

    "All the mud just came from right here and just wedged us in," Green said.

    After removing the debris, a geologist was expected to check the stability of nearby slopes.

    "There could always be more slide that comes down onto the road," said California Department of Transportation spokeswoman Lauren Wonder. "Our engineers are always very careful so they make sure in a flood situation, any hillside is secure. That's always precautionary."

    The closure has left thousands of drivers searching for alternative routes. Northbound traffic was being directed off the freeway three miles north of Santa Clarita at Parker Road and southbound traffic at Grapevine Road, according to the CHP.

    The main route to and from the Central Valley wasn't the only northern Los Angeles County road affected by Thursday evening's storms. The CHP reported that the 14 Freeway, closed Thursday, reopened early Friday, but Route 58, the Mojave-Barstow Highway, remained closed after big rigs and cars were buried in mud.

    CHP Lt. Sven Miller said 115 cars and 75 trucks were stuck on the highway between the towns of Mojave and Tehachapi. Southbound motorists were being advised to take state Routes 41 or 166 to the southbound 101 Freeway to eastbound state Route 126.

    Flooding was also reported by the National Weather Service near San Francisquito Canyon and Elizabeth Lake roads, and a funnel cloud was spotted near Lake Hughes, a mountainside community in northern Los Angeles County.

    Robert Rocha, a 37-year-old resident, said he was driving home from work when the storm arrived.

    "It was getting pretty hairy out there," he said. "I've never seen it rain that hard in such a short period of time, the hail and wind — it was coming down hard," he said. "The debris was just intense — chunks of wood and rock flowing everywhere."

    The Los Angeles County Fire Department reported rescuing at least 12 people and several animals, including eight dogs. Mud and dirt covered cars and flowed inside several vehicles. Aerial video showed a mobile home on its side, apparently swept off a road by a mud flow.

    Floodwaters and mud also damaged homes in Palmdale. Los Angeles County Fire Department rescue crews airlifted four people to safety after they became trapped in a vehicle, the department's Humberto Agurcia said.

    More flash flooding is possible Friday afternoon as another storm system moves into the region. The storms come ahead of what is expected to be a wet winter in Southern California, due mainly to the effects of El Nino.

    Toni Guinyard and City News Service contributed to this report.