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SCV braces for rain

Experts predict 24-hour downpour that could exceed monthly average

Posted: October 12, 2009 10:59 p.m.
Updated: October 13, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Rafael Prado, a porter at Galpin Lincoln Mercury on Creekside Drive in Valencia, wipes away drops of rain from some of the 200 cars on the lot Monday.

The National Weather Service is forecasting an 80 percent chance of showers for tonight through Wednesday evening, marking the start of California's rainy season.

Santa Clarita Valley should receive between 1 to 3 inches of rain - an unusually high amount this early in the year - by the time the bulk of the storm passes, officials said. Winds between 20 to 30 mph are also expected.

The possible downpour could lead to danger of floods, especially in areas burned by recent wildfires, along with dangerous conditions on local roads, officials said, and some outdoor events slated for this week have been canceled.

The storm is the result of a low pressure system from the northwest combining with the tropical moisture of a typhoon that began across the Pacific Ocean, said Jamie Meier, meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Los Angeles office.

Typically, the Santa Clarita Valley receives about a half an inch of rain in October, Meier said, meaning the impending storm should shower the valley with about four times its monthly average in a little more than 24 hours.

"This should be a pretty good start to the rainy season," Meier said.

As of Monday night, a flash flood warning had not been issued for burn areas in Los Angeles County, but it's likely a warning will be issued sometime today, Meier said. Flash flood warnings are generally not given until storms are about 18 hours away, she said.

A flash flood warning has already been given for burn areas in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo.

Local fire stations may provide sandbags for people concerned about possible flooding. The LA County Fire Department Web site recommends getting sandbags before rain begins.

Meanwhile, the heavy rain could make for dangerous driving conditions.

Rain mixing with oil on asphalt makes streets and freeways extremely slick, and driving much more hazardous right after rain begins to pour, said California Highway Patrol Officer Michelle Esposito of the Newhall station.

A majority of traffic collisions, which occur while it's raining, are the result of people who drive too fast and don't adapt to driving conditions in worse weather, Esposito said.

"It's not rain that causes accidents," Esposito said. "People who don't adjust their speed do."

As a result of an increased likelihood of crashes, people should give themselves extra time to commute and work out alternate driving routes as a precaution, she said.

People who drive along mountain roads should be especially alert because mud and rock slides could spill debris onto roadways if the rain gets bad enough, Esposito said.

As a precaution, the city has postponed three Walk and Bike to School Events scheduled on Wednesday at Rio Vista, North Park and Old Orchard Elementary Schools, and rescheduled them for Oct. 21, said city spokeswoman Gail Ortiz.

Safe Route to School events are part of the city's effort to encourage school children to walk and bike to class instead of being driven by car.

Ortiz said the city will also postpone street resurfacing work this week on Soledad Canyon Road between Sierra Highway and Sand Canyon as part of the city's Overlay and Slurry Seal Project.

The city has been preparing for the rainy season by cleaning out city storm drains.

"The city has been gearing up for rain over the last two months," Ortiz said. "Safety is paramount."


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