Hail, Malibu, full of slush

Snow in Corral Canyon, hail stones on Malibu Road. It may not have been the storm of the century, but it was the first time in memory that snow plows were called into service in this beach town.

The latest in the every-other-day series of winter storms dumped 1-1/2 inches of rain on Malibu Sunday, and some children slogged through slush to get to school Monday morning. Heavy hail triggered several accidents on Pacific Coast Highway.

“A cloud just came through about 9:15 a.m. and dumped about 6 to 8 inches of hail on PCH within 10 minutes,” said Rick Barry, Leo Carrillo State Park maintenance assistant. The campground is in a little valley with its entrance at Mulholland and PCH. “Cars going northbound down that grade just lost control,” Barry said. “One guy in a van spun out, went across PCH, off the road and hit a telephone pole. About five minutes after that, another car lost control and hit a car stopped in the center turn lane.” Only minor injuries were reported.

A Caltrans truck with a blade ordinarily used to remove rocks from the highway came by and cleared the ice, alleviating the hazard even though rain continued to fall throughout the day. Barry said there was about 20 minutes altogether of hail. “I’ve been here five years,” he said. “It’s the first thing like that I’ve seen.”

The snow level, predicted to be as low as 2,500 feet throughout the county, fell below 1,500 feet in Encinal and Corral canyons and piles of snow dotted the shoulders of the highway along Broad Beach.

Meanwhile, heavy rains dislodged mud and rocks from slopes at lower elevations. County water district crews were reconnecting water lines on Calle del Barco, where a huge landslide triggered two years ago closed off that La Costa neighborhood. The recently completed slope repair, which is covered with heavy mesh, appeared undamaged by the downpour, but smaller cliffs below shed mud and rocks onto Rambla Vista, which was all cleaned up by Tuesday morning.

“No serious slide damage was reported, just the normal unraveling in the canyons.” said Richard Calvin, city street maintenance manager.

As usual, heavy runoff carried pollution from streets and parking lots through storm drains onto the beach. Heal the Bay issued its customary warnings against swimming and surfing within 100 yards of any flowing storm drain. Farther south, about 560,000 gallons of sewage spilled into Ballona Creek at midday Sunday, closing beaches from Venice Pier south to Imperial Highway. “Bacteria levels are off the scale,” Heal the Bay reported. “Indicator bacteria counts at beaches throughout the bay usually far exceed health criteria in the state’s Beach Closure and Health Warning Protocol during and immediately after a rainstorm.”

“You’re supposed to wait three days but that’s hard to do when it rains every other day,” said City Engineer Rick Morgan.

Water quality in Malibu Lagoon, once the sand berm opens in the fall, is not affected so much by storm runoff.

“Our ocean water quality of course has been horrible with all the rain. But the lagoon pretty much stays open, so it doesn’t change the water quality there,” Morgan said. “It all goes out into the surf zone.” (See Beach Report, A3.)

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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