Amid California’s historic drought, an even rarer weekend downpour that calmed wildfires also washed away a 30-foot bridge that carries commuters to Arizona.
An elevated area on Interstate 10 collapsed early Sunday evening near Southeastern California’s Desert Center, leaving a pickup truck trapped underneath. Firefighters launched a cut and rescue operation and the driver was taken to hospital with minor injuries, authorities told the Associated Press. California Highway Patrol have since stopped eastbound traffic near Joshua Tree National Park, a roadway from Palm Springs to the Arizona border.
Ezekiel Ekinaka, 1, with his parents Aaron and Juliet, wears a raincoat as he experiences rain for the second time in his life, at the San Clemente, Calif. (Mindy Schauer/The Orange County Register via AP)
Drivers were stranded for miles, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
“We are so stuck out here,” 53-year-old commuter Pamala Browne told the AP Sunday evening. “There’s no end to the cars that are stuck out here.”
The two-day rainstorm in southern and central California brought flash floods, thunder and lightning along the state’s drought-stricken breaches, forcing authorities to close a 70-mile stretch over the weekend.
Beachgoers were warned about strong surf and rip currents and swimmers were urged to steer clear of storm drainage flowing in the sea.
In this photo provided by the CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Department, emergency crews respond after a pickup truck crashed into the collapse of an elevated section of Interstate 10, Sunday, July 19, 2015, in Desert Center, Calif. (Chief Geoff Pemberton/CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire via AP)
Many Southern California residents were without power Sunday afternoon.
Outdoor concerts were canceled. The San Diego Padres had to postpone Sunday’s game and the Los Angeles had its first rainout in two decades.
By Sunday night, the rainstorm had caused a debris flow that trapped several residents in Silverado Canyon near the Santa Ana Mountains.
“We had a pretty significant mud and debris flow that went into the creek and then across Silverado Canyon Road, making the road impassable,” Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Steve Concialdi told the Los Angeles Times. “We had a 1,000-acre brush fire back in September, so we have a pretty large burn scar,” he added. “So when we do have significant rain, that mud and debris come downhill toward the road, toward homes.”
Though Concialdi told the newspaper no homes were in danger.
The rainfall broke records in at least 11 areas, including Los Angeles and San Diego, for July, which is typically considered Southern California’s driest month.
“It looks like there’s a good chance the monthly record is going to go up,” National Weather Service meteorologist Joe Sirard said. “Really, this is super historic.”
On Saturday, Los Angeles, for instance, got 0.36 inches of rain, which beat its record on July 14, 1886, when it got 0.24 inches, Sirard told the Associated Press.
National Weather Service forecaster David Sweet told the Los Angeles Times that Los Angeles, in particular, is feeling the aftereffects of tropical storm Dolores.
The weekend rain did help contain several California wildfires, including Friday’s 3,500-acre blaze that crawled through Cajon Pass and jumped across Interstate 15, forcing commuters to flee their vehicles. The flames destroyed 20 cars before 40 MPH winds carried it to a nearby community called Baldy Mesa, where it torched seven homes and 44 more vehicles, authorities told the AP.
A vehicle proceeds slowly through water covering a road following a brief downpour in northwest Moreno Valley, Calif, Sunday, July 19, 2015. (John Bender/The Press-Enterprise via AP)
“People were screaming,” Russell Allevato, who was on vacation from Michigan with his family, told CBS San Francisco over the weekend. “It was just crazy.”
“We were surrounded by flames,” he said. “They were to the left, then in front of us and they came around to the right. We were in a big horseshoe in the middle.”
Firefighters worked to beat the blaze as light rain help them to gain ground.
“It’s pretty much burnt desert,” witness Keishawna Williams told the station.
Two people suffered minor smoke inhalation, authorities told the AP.
U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Lyn Sieliet told the Los Angeles Times the rainstorm could become blessing or curse as fire remnants continue to smolder.
“If it brings wind and lightning, it could make things more difficult for us,” she said. “But if it brings light, steady rain, that’s going to be the best-case scenario.”
Officials said the showers are expected to continue through Monday.
Lindsey Bever is a national news reporter for The Washington Post. She writes for the Morning Mix news blog. Tweet her: @lindseybever