Tuesday Storm Eases Malibu Into 2016 El Niño

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Las Flores Creek comes alive Tuesday afternoon following eight hours of sustained rainfall. The creek, located beside The Malibu Times office, has been mostly dry for years.

Nearly two inches of rain fell in Malibu Canyon between 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 5, in what is widely considered the first storm of this year’s El Niño weather event. Despite reports of rockslides, floods and car accidents, more catastrophic results — such as fatalities, major property damage or long-term road closures — have not occurred because of the storm.

The rain, which caused on-and-off lane closures on Malibu Canyon Road, Kanan Road and Pacific Coast Highway, was heaviest between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Tuesday, when an inch of rain fell within two hours in Malibu Canyon, according to measurements taken by the National Weather Service (NWS).

In the same span, .95 inches fell in Malibu Hills, .46 inches fell at Leo Carrillo, .75 inches fell at Point Mugu and .27 inches fell in Topanga. The heaviest rain hit Leo Carrillo between 10 and 11 a.m., when an additional .32 inches fell at the state park. 

Unconfirmed reports from residents in Malibu put the rain total in some areas up to four inches.

Point Dume resident Mari Stanley spoke to The Malibu Times just after noon on Tuesday, after her self-described “old school” rain gauge hit the one-inch mark.

Stanley told the Times the rain hadn’t caused damage to her property, but after living in Malibu for years, she is prepared for when the storm can worsen, as it may later this week.

“You live through it a few times, shed a few tears and then afterward you’re like, ‘Yeah! I did that!’” Stanley said, recalling previous El Niño storms survived on the Point.

Damage across town

At 8:44 a.m., an alert from the City of Malibu Emergency Services reported “fallen rocks on the roadway on Malibu Canyon at the tunnel.”

“A boulder came down and I guess a car went on top of that boulder — or rock, or whatever — and now that car is stuck in the roadway,” Sgt. Luda of the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station said Tuesday morning around 9:15 a.m. “Traffic is seriously blocked up.”

At 10:46 a.m., an alert came from the city of a “minor rock slide on Kanan Road between Tunnel 2 and Mulholland Highway,” though no lanes were closed.

A car overturned on Pacific Coast Highway near Mulholland Hwy just west of Malibu before noon Tuesday, due to flooding of the roadway. According to Sgt. Powell with the California Highway Patrol (CHP), the cleanup from the accident took “about three hours,” but no injuries were fatal.

An afternoon traffic collision on Malibu Canyon Road north of the tunnel shut down one lane, with traffic moving sluggishly. “CHP is alternating traffic flow,” reported Sheriff’s officials at 1:03 p.m.

When rain died down, one lane of Malibu Canyon Road was closed at Civic Center Way near Pepperdine University as crews cleared debris from the roadway. 

Weather warnings

Cell phones across Malibu chimed in unison at 11:44 a.m., proclaiming a flash flood warning that lasted until 2:15 p.m.

A high surf advisory from the NWS began Tuesday morning after 11 a.m. and is projected to continue until Friday, Jan. 8 at 10 p.m., with “very large damaging surf possible Wednesday and Thursday.”

More hazardous weather, such as winter storm warnings for mountain peaks above 6,000 feet, was predicted for the area around Malibu this week, but was not expected to affect Malibu or the Santa Monica Mountains. 

What to do now

The City of Malibu has published information regarding ways to stay safe this winter, available at malibucity.org/elnino.

Advice includes a checklist of “resident participation” actions, such as cleaning storm drains and gutters, cleaning debris from around properties, improving drainage and water issues around properties, and checking roofs for potential leaks.

The City of Malibu encourages residents to enroll in “real-time emergency alerts, traffic, weather and beach advisories” by going to malibucity.org/news.

County of Los Angeles Notifications will give users on-the-minute notifications during emergencies, such as weather events. Registration can be completed at portal.lacounty.gov/wps/portal/alertla.

Sandbags are available in Malibu at Zuma Beach and Will Rogers Beach in Pacific Palisades.

Family Emergency Preparedness Classes begin on Tuesday, Jan. 19, from 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. The free classes are designed “for moms and dads,” and offer “lots of good ideas to help you be better prepared to look after the family when disasters strike.” Six two-hour classes are scheduled.

Community Emergency Response Team Classes begin on Saturday, Feb. 6, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Classes run on four consecutive Saturdays and are free and open to Malibu residents.