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Jul 20, 2015 12:53 AM

Section of Calif. freeway collapses, blocking Ariz. traffic

The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) An elevated section of Interstate 10 collapsed Sunday amid heavy rains in a remote desert area of California, leaving one driver injured, stranding many others and preventing travel for thousands by cutting off the main corridor in both directions between Southern California and Arizona.

A bridge for eastbound traffic about 15 feet above a normally dry wash about 50 miles west of the Arizona state gave way and ended up in the flooding water below, the California Highway Patrol said, blocking all traffic headed toward Arizona.

The westbound section of the freeway near the tiny town of Desert Center remained intact, but traffic was being stopped while it was inspected for safety, and a pair of small nearby highways that could possibly serve as detours were also closed.

No timeframe has been given for when the westbound side would be reopened or for when the eastbound side might be repaired.

That means those seeking to travel between California and Arizona late Sunday or early Monday would be forced to go hundreds of miles out of their way to Interstate 8 to the south or Interstate 40 to the north.

Transportation officials recommended travelers on the east side of the collapse use U.S. Highway 95 to get to the other freeways, and state routes 247 and 86 on the California side.

One driver had to be rescued from a pickup truck that crashed in the collapse and was taken to a hospital with moderate injuries, the Riverside County Fire Department said. A passenger from the truck was able to get out without help and wasn't hurt.

"The 10 is a dire situation," California transportation spokeswoman Terri Kasinga told the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

Pamala Browne, 53, and her daughter were driving from Flagstaff, Arizona to Palm Desert, California when they got stranded when the westbound lanes were shutdown.

"Oh my God, we are so stuck out here," Browne told the Desert Sun newspaper. "There's no end to the cars that are stuck out here."

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.

Rain fell Sunday afternoon in parts of Los Angeles County's mountains, the valley north and inland urban areas to the east. The city also was expected to get a late repeat of Saturday's scattered showers and occasional downpours as remnants of tropical storm Dolores brought warm, muggy conditions northward.

"We have a chance of some more heavy rain in LA County this evening, thunderstorms, lightning, possibly some localized street flooding," said National Weather Service meteorologist Joe Sirard.

The 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, Sirard said.

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 record is especially significant, Sirard said, because downtown Los Angeles has the longest recording climate station, dating back to July 1, 1877.

Saturday's storm brought 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.

AJ Lester of the Los Angeles County Fire Department's Lifeguard Division said he has been in touch with weather officials and was tracking rain reports.

Signs warned beachgoers to avoid storm drain flows into the ocean because of Saturday's sometimes heavy rain. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health recommends people avoid swimming within 100 yards of a storm drain for 72 hours after heavy rain.

"All storm drains flowed out yesterday, but it hasn't rained much this year, so that doesn't bode well for the water quality," Lester said Sunday.

Warnings were also in place for high surf and strong rip currents on all south-facing beaches, including Venice, Santa Monica, Malibu, Zuma, Newport and Huntington, Lester said.

Meanwhile, the summer storm has helped firefighters advance on two wildfires that broke out Friday.

Muggy, moist conditions were expected to persist through Monday.


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