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Storm does U-turn, drenches San Diego again, causes mudslide in Encinitas

Some coastal areas of San Diego County have received more than 3 inches of rain since Sunday night.
(Gary Robbins / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

A Pacific storm that was moving east after soaking San Diego County for days made an odd U-turn early Friday, April 10, returning to drench the region again, producing one of the wettest Aprils on record and smashing historic rainfall totals.

The system died out late Friday night, capping a six-day period in which Palomar Mountain received at least 8.40 inches of rain while 7.30 inches fell in Encinitas, 6.30 inches fell in Valley Center and 3.50 inches hit San Diego International Airport.

By 1 p.m. Friday, April 10, the reading at the airport made this the fourth wettest April in San Diego — a record that dates back to 1850, according to the National Weather Service.

The airport has received more than 13 inches of precipitation during the current rainy season — something that has not happened since 2004-05, when the city got more than 22 inches.

“The storm had headed toward Las Vegas on Thursday then came back and has just been sitting on top of us,” said Alex Tardy, a weather service forecaster. “It’s the perfect scenario for prolonged rain.”

The system, which originated in the Gulf of Alaska, also brought light snow, covering the peaks at Palomar Mountain and Mount Laguna.

Traffic was unusually light Friday on the region’s streets and freeways due to the coronavirus, which had people sheltering at home. But the rain, falling in vertical sheets, contributed to a crash Friday morning, April 10, that killed a father and left his teen son gravely injured, and shut down state Route 78 in Oceanside for much of the day.

San Diego police said the fatal crash happened about 7:50 a.m. when a 50-year-old man lost control of his BMW while speeding through the rain northbound on Carmel Canyon Road north of Carmel Country Road.

The sedan slammed into a tree and was sheared in half by the impact, police said. The driver died, his 17-year-old son sustained life-threatening head injuries and his 15-year-old daughter suffered minor injuries.

Friday’s steady rain also caused flooding that prompted a full closure of state Route 78 in both directions near El Camino Real in Oceanside around 8:15 a.m. that lasted all day.

The California Highway Patrol’s Oceanside office shared several photos and videos on Instagram of two ducks swimming across the flooded highway.

There were also the usual crashes and rescues that come with heavy rain. Around 10:30 a.m., a Jeep veered off state Route 94 near Interstate 15 in San Diego, down an embankment and into the fast moving waters of Chollas Creek.

The Jeep landed on its wheels, but stranded two people inside. Fire and lifeguard crews from the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department set up a rope system and used a ladder as a bridge to rescue the pair.

The depth of the lower San Diego River reached 12 feet, 4 inches, causing minor flooding in Fashion Valley.

By 5 p.m. in Encinitas, a rain-drenched hillside gave way, causing a mudslide to crash into a nursing home off Santa Fe Drive and Bonita Drive, according to a Sheriff’s Department official.

Nobody was injured, but the mudslide caused a partial roof collapse and some flooding inside the facility.

The storm began producing sprinkles last Sunday then intensified on Monday afternoon and evening as the system pulled a lot of moisture from the subtropics. The so-called atmospheric river lasted into Tuesday. It rained sporadically into Wednesday and Thursday, when forecasters thought the storm was finally about to clear off to the east. But then came the U-turn.

“It’s unusual to get this much rain, especially in April,” Tardy said. “We’re going to have a second growth of grass and flowers. It’ll be a really pretty spring.”

The storm broke several records.

Forecasters say the airport received 1.98 inches on rain Friday, breaking the record for April 10. The previous record was 1.03 inches, set in 1952. Oceanside Harbor got 3.09 inches, breaking the record of 0.30 inches, set in 2001. Vista also hit 3.09 inches, breaking the record of 0.54 inches, set in 1965. Chula Vista got 1.56 inches, breaking the record of 0.48 inches, set in 2016.

Escondido received 1.53 inches, breaking the record of 0.86, set in 1965. Ramona got 1.90 inches, breaking the record of 0.60 inches, set in 2016. Alpine received 1.41 inches, breaking the record of 0.48 inches, set in 1965. And Campo got 0.89 inches, breaking the record of 0.80 inches, set in 1965.

The heavy rain added to the woes of North County Transit District on Friday, Apriil 10, slowing or stopping a number of trains.

Flooding at the Buena Creek Sprinter station in Vista canceled or delayed trains between Oceanside and Vista for much of the day. Flooding west of the Rancho Del Oro station in Oceanside allowed only bus service from that point to the Oceanside Transit Center from late morning on.

Coaster commuter trains between San Diego and Oceanside were delayed at times because of speed restrictions south of Sorrento Valley.

“Our team is very busy with the repercussions of the rain event,” said NCTD spokeswoman Kimy Wall. “Detours and delays will continue to evolve throughout the day. We are monitoring the situation closely, and if we feel it’s unsafe to run trains (or buses) ... we will halt that service accordingly.”

The disruptions had less of an impact than usual due to declined ridership in light of coronavirus stay-at-home restrictions. Because there are so few passengers, the agency has reduced the number of weekday trains and suspended Coaster service on weekends.

-- Gary Robbins, Phil Diehl and Alex Riggins are reporters for The San Diego Union-Tribune

— Staff writer Rob Krier contributed to this report.


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