Los Angeles County saw 1.4 inches of rain on Sunday, and with a crippling drought choking California, many viewed the rain as a welcome relief. However, along with the wet conditions comes a new risk: mudslides.
Between ten and fifteen cars were stuck Sunday on the Pacific Coast Highway west of Zuma Beach, as a mudslide sent rocks and debris hurtling onto sections of Route 1, causing a nine-mile stretch of freeway to be shut down, California Highway Patrol officers told NBC News.
At least two cars reportedly had their gas tanks punctured by rocks, although all of the stranded drivers were able to abandon their cars and leave the hazardous stretch of freeway on their own.
Two to three feet of mud and debris was reported on the Pacific Coast Highway between Mugu Rock and Deer Creek Road, according to NBC.
And there will undoubtedly be more to come. A winter storm is expected to dump inches of rain on most of the state this week.
“Widespread rain will begin to develop late Monday night into Tuesday morning,” the Weather Channel predicted on Sunday. The report predicts between one and three inches of rain over wide areas of the state, as well as wet conditions persisting until the weekend.
All of that rain increases the likelihood of mudslides, the Weather Channel warned. Additionally, recent burn scar areas across the state could see flash flooding.
California’s historic drought, now in its fourth year, has affected nearly every area of the state, with 79.7% of areas reporting “extreme drought” or worse, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. That number is up from just 27.6% one year ago.
Climatologist Brian Fuchs of the University of Nebraska’s National Drought Mitigation Center told the Los Angeles Times in July that rain storms like those predicted for this week will do little to move the needle in the right direction for the water-starved state. Because the drought has persisted for so long, Fuchs said, it will be “harder to break the cycle.”