LOS ANGELES – While skies cleared Wednesday over Southern California (search), a six-day drenching left city workers scrambling to keep up with a rush of calls for collapsing homes, roads choked with mud — not to mention house-sized boulders seemingly ready to tumble down hillsides. At least nine people have died in the deluge.
For firefighters, there's little time to stop and eat or even use the restroom. For road crews, there are thousands of potholes — some the size of cars.
In Los Angeles (search), city engineers slapped red or yellow tags on more than 100 homes, rendering them temporarily uninhabitable or safe for only limited entry.
Crews responded to 270 mudslides, some of which forced evacuations after crashing into homes, said Los Angeles Public Works Department Commissioner Janice Wood.
The damage spread south into Orange and San Diego counties — where dozens of homes were slipping or evacuated following landslides — and across the border into Tijuana, Mexico, where the Office of Civil Protection reported at least seven homes had collapsed and more than 150 people were evacuated.
Warnings have been placed on thousands of houses, Tijuana Civil Protection Director Humberto Garcia said, though some families don't want to leave for fear their belongings could be looted.
A house-sized boulder teetered above Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, forcing the closure of a two-mile stretch of the well-worn road. Crews planned to inject the rock with a type of gel that would cause it to disintegrate from the inside.
Everyone in the Los Angeles Public Works Department licensed to evaluate whether shifting ground had made homes uninhabitable was in the field, according to commissioner Janice Wood.
"If the janitor had a geotech license, he'd be out there today, too," she said.
City fire spokesman Brian Humphrey said some ambulance crews had been diverted to work as reconnaissance teams to spot signs of flooding and mudslides.
At least nine people died throughout the state during the six-day deluge that pushed rain totals to their highest level since Los Angeles was a small outpost in the desert.
In downtown, rainfall has reached 9.14 inches, bringing the total since July 1 to 34.36 inches — the most in Los Angeles since 1889-90. The record for a single year was set in 1883-84 at 38.18 inches. The yearly average is about 15 inches.
The calmer weather that began Wednesday was expected to continue into Thursday with some cloudy conditions, forecasters said.
Officials estimated that damage to roads and facilities in Los Angeles County alone reached $52.5 million since Jan. 1, with up to $10 million in damage caused by the latest storm.
On Monday, the heaviest day of rain, the Los Angeles Fire Department received nearly 2,000 calls — twice the normal amount, said spokesman Brian Humphrey.
In Ventura County, the small Santa Paula airport remained closed after more than 155 feet of runway crumbled into the rushing Santa Clara River. Mudslides forced Amtrak to suspend train service between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara through at least Thursday.
The wet weather has been quite an adjustment in a place known for eternal sunshine. People dodge puddles and scattered palm fronds in the streets, drive more slowly on the freeways, and even talk about the weather in a region that usually doesn't have any worth discussing.
"It's so depressing," said Stephanie Soechtig, 28, who runs a television production company from her Santa Monica home and hasn't able to walk her Chihuahua, Fellini, because of the relentless downpours. "We've been stuck inside all day. I feel like I'm going crazy."