California Storms Collapse Bridge, Snarling Traffic

By and | July 21, 2015

All traffic along a major freeway connecting California and Arizona was blocked indefinitely when a bridge over a desert wash collapsed during heavy rain, and the roadway in the opposite direction suffered severe damage, authorities said.

The collapse Sunday of Interstate 10 in southeastern California left one driver injured, stranded numerous motorists and complicated travel for countless others for what officials warned could be a long time.

The closure forced drivers seeking to use I-10 to travel between California and Arizona to go hundreds of miles out of their way.

The rains came amid a second day of showers and thunderstorms in southern and central California that were setting rainfall records in what is usually a dry month.

The bridge for eastbound traffic about 50 miles west of the Arizona state line gave way and ended up in the flooding water below, the California Highway Patrol said.

The westbound section of the freeway near the tiny town of Desert Center was also closed. The roadway was intact but extremely undermined by flooding and could need just-as-extensive rebuilding, Terri Kasinga, spokeswoman for the California Department of Transportation said.

One driver had to be rescued from a pickup that crashed in the collapse and was taken to a hospital with moderate injuries, the Riverside County Fire Department said.

Hundreds of other cars were stranded immediately after the collapse, but the California Highway Patrol worked to divert them and it wasn’t clear if any remained, Kasinga said.

Rain fell Sunday afternoon in parts of Los Angeles County’s mountains, the valley north and inland urban areas to the east as remnants of tropical storm Dolores brought warm, muggy conditions northward.

cars_highwayThe showers forced the Los Angeles Angels’ first rainout in 20 years and the San Diego Padres’ first rainout since 2006.

Saturday’s rainfall broke records in at least 11 locations, including five places that had the most rain ever recorded on any day in July, said National Weather Service meteorologist Joe Sirard.

July is typically the driest month of the year in Southern California. Because of that, Saturday’s 0.36 inch of rain in downtown Los Angeles exceeded the 0.24 inch recorded July 14, 1886, which had been the wettest July day in nearly 130 years.

The storm brought weekend flash floods and power outages and turned Los Angeles County’s typically packed coast into empty stretches of sand when the threat of lightning forced authorities to close 70 miles of beaches.

The summer storm has helped firefighters advance on two wildfires that broke out Friday, including one that forced the closure of another key Southern California freeway.

Interstate 15 in the mountainous Cajon Pass northeast of Los Angeles was shut down after flames swept across lanes, torching vehicles and sending people running for safety. All lanes were open Monday on the main artery between Southern California and Las Vegas, and the blaze was 75 percent contained.

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