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Riverside Storms Flood Roads, Parking Lots

Riverside Storms Flood Roads, Parking Lots

RIVERSIDE (CNS) - A major storm system deluged Riverside with rain today, knocking out power, flooding major streets and backing up traffic for miles.

Downpours started around 2:50 p.m. and lasted roughly an hour, with driving rain accompanied by high winds. Flooded roads were exacerbated in some areas by toppled trees.

“We had the equivalent of a 200-year flood in one hour,” Riverside Public Utilities Deputy Director Steve Badgett told City News Service. “It rained hard for a solid hour. We recorded nearly 1.5 inches of rain in the heart of the city.”

Trees that had collapsed onto power lines, along with blown transformers, knocked out electricity to more than 10,000 homes and businesses, according to Badgett.

Around 1,000 customers remained without electricity as of 8 p.m., Badgett said. The outages were in isolated pockets of the city, including in Riverside's historic “Woods” streets near downtown, as well as southeast of  the University Avenue corridor. Badgett expected power would be fully restored by Friday morning, with crews working around the clock.

“The sheer amount of water that came down in such a short span of time has caused a lot of problems,” Riverside Public Information Officer Phil Pitchford told City News Service.

Canals throughout the downtown area were unable to handle the high volume of rainwater, which spilled onto roadways, turning low places into virtual ponds.

“The overflow was too much,” Badgett said. “We certainly learned a lesson today.”

Access to the Riverside (91) Freeway and downtown area was blocked at major junctures from the east side of the city, with firefighters, traffic enforcement personnel and police officers blocking roadways where water and mud  had massed.

Two of the worst-hit areas were 14th Street and University Avenue, where standing water prevented safe crossing. By 8 p.m., crews had removed water on University, just below the Riverside Freeway, but 14th was still closed.

Water and mud damage occurred in two homes on Sunnyside Drive, just off the Riverside Freeway at Arlington Avenue, according to Riverside Fire  Department Capt. Tim Beeler.

Beeler told City News Service that one home had very light damage, but the adjacent one took the brunt of a “spillover” of mud and debris from the Gage Canal.

“The backyard, back patio and garage are just covered in mud,” Beeler said. “Most of the interior is still livable.”

Firefighters were shoring up the canal to prevent any further spillage.

Classes were canceled at Riverside Community College because of the storms. UC Riverside remained open, but officials temporarily closed the underpass at the 60/91/215 transition and evacuated a parking lot because of flooding, according to the university's website.

 A high-occupancy vehicle lane expansion project on the Riverside Freeway, underway for a year, has resulted in mounds of dirt being left adjacent to freeway off- and on-ramps. Those piles immediately turned to mud during the downpours. The muck impacted rush-hour traffic flow but did not necessitate closing down the freeway.

Pitchford said City Hall offices at Main and Ninth streets sustained minor rain-related damage. The city's Emergency Operations Center on Lincoln Street was activated, and agency heads were coordinating efforts to tackle the mess.

When the city's major thoroughfares, including Chicago Avenue, Victoria  Avenue, University and 14th, were shut down, motorists streamed onto narrow two- lane streets that quickly became jammed.

Frustrated drivers made U-turns against red lights to reach alternate routes, only to discover they were partially or completely shut down as well, including Park and Howard avenues.

Westbound Third Street heading into downtown Riverside was one of the few arteries available during the late-afternoon drama, and traffic was backed up on it for more than three miles.

Municipal buses were caught in the quagmire, delayed for hours, leaving would-be riders stranded at stops along the University corridor.

“I think part of the problem is a lot of people left work early to check on their property, and with everybody hitting the streets at the same  time, it added to the difficulties,” Pitchford said.

National Weather Service forecasters said the storm cell that hit the area brought winds in excess of 60 mph and hail.

Photo credit: Jakob Holmes

 

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