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Storm Unleashes Flooding, Mudslides in Southern California

January 8, 1993

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Coast Guard helicopters rescued people trapped by flooding and hundreds of people were homeless in adjacent Mexico as a Pacific storm walloped the coast.

At least three California deaths were blamed on the weather, along with 14 in Tijuana, Mexico.

″Some roads are covered, some houses are completely under water,″ Coast Guard pilot Lt. Gene Adgate said. ″Some cars are just gone. One car was floating down the river.″

In the Mexican border city of Tijuana, Thursday’s flooding and mudslides forced hundreds from hillside slums. More than 600 people went to shelters.

Gov. Pete Wilson declared a state of emergency in San Diego County as high water forced people from their homes along the Tijuana River.

Wilson also sent a message to Baja California Gov. Ernesto Ruffel Appel offering assistance to the Mexican state.

The storm had dumped up to 6 inches of rain in valleys and up to 12 inches in the mountains since it began Tuesday night. Warmer weather melted snow in the mountains, worsening the flooding.

Early today, the Mojave River overflowed in the desert town of Victorville, pushing 3 to 4 feet of water into 18 homes and forcing evacuation of 45 people, said fire spokesman Art York. The water was expected to recede quickly after workers closed a spillway at Silverwood Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains, York said.

In Arizona, about 350 people were evacuated during the night from low-lying areas along the Gila River in Winkelman, a mining town about 70 miles north of Tucson. Evacuations also were recommended in some outlying areas of Tucson. Water releases from Salt River reservoirs east of Phoenix were increased today to the highest rate since nearly 13 years ago as storm runoff caused minor flooding around Arizona.

Riverside County rescue teams searched for a pilot whose plane went down Thursday evening at the 9,200-foot level of Mount San Jacinto, about 2 miles from the top of the Palm Springs aerial tramway. The man was believed to be only slightly injured, but radio contact was lost, said sheriff’s Sgt. Joseph Dowdell.

Elsewhere, heavy overnight snowfall along Utah’s Wasatch Front range resulted in avalanches that closed highways through two mountain canyons. In California’s Sierra Nevada, Truckee got 10 inches of snow overnight.

In the San Ysidro border area, Coast Guard helicopters rescued 10 people trapped when the Tijuana River overflowed its banks, and a 14-year-old who suffered a severe leg cut while wading through deep water.

Navy personnel used amphibious trucks to rescue at least 10 people from raging water and lifeguards and Border Patrol agents made numerous other rescues.

Mud crashed into 12 homes after a recently graded hillside gave way in the Pedley area in Riverside County.

Tumbling rocks and mud turned the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu into a demolition course.

A car skidding on wet pavement killed two teen-agers walking in Walnut, the Highway Patrol said. A man was killed when his car went out of control on a flooded road and hit a light pole near Los Angeles International Airport, police said.

In Cathedral City, 100 miles east of Los Angeles, a man was reported missing after his car was swept into the rain-swollen Whitewater River.

San Diego Mayor Susan Golding responded to Tijuana Mayor Hector Osuna’s request for help by sending cleaning crews, two dump trucks, four bulldozers, 25 four-wheel-drive pickups, two 5,000-gallon fuel trucks, dozens of hand tools and bedding across the border.

Mexican army soldiers joined local crews in rescuing trapped residents. Dozens of abandoned cars sat partly submerged on downtown roadways.

″You can see lots of cars - 20, 25 cars - in a three-block section crashed into walls, houses ... people under debris, injured. Somebody dead. It’s very sad,″ resident Angelica Gonzalez said.

Eleven people were reported drowned in Tijuana, including four children between the ages of 3 and 10, although some of their bodies remained missing, said police spokesman Juan M. Ojeda Pico.

Two men were electrocuted when water hit electrical outlets in their apartments, said police Capt. Jesse Murillo. A child’s bronchitis-related death also was blamed on the weather.

The storm was expected to taper off today, but another was headed toward the region and expected to arrive by Saturday afternoon.

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