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I-5 slowly reopening after Grapevine mudslide; Tehachapi route remains closed

Floodwater from Thursday night’s storm, runoff from Panoche Creek, reaches the outskirts of Mendota on Friday. The earthen dam was put up to divert the water.
Floodwater from Thursday night’s storm, runoff from Panoche Creek, reaches the outskirts of Mendota on Friday. The earthen dam was put up to divert the water. jwalker@fresnobee.com

Rainstorms have caused flooding and mudslides throughout the Valley on Friday, impeding motorists trying to get to and from Southern California and the desert, and forcing officials to close a road near Mendota.

Overnight rain totals Fresno 0.16 inches Madera .14 Merced .07 Porterville .16 Visalia .45

The Grapevine Route on Interstate 5 took the most celebrated hit Thursday evening, with traffic stopped both ways for a good portion of Friday. The northbound lanes reopened at 2 p.m. Two of the southbound lanes are open, but officials have to escort traffic through the mudslide area, the California Highway Patrol said. Travelers should expect delays.

But reported 20-foot-tall walls of mud Thursday evening washed out part of Highway 58 in Kern County, the Valley’s connection to the desert and Las Vegas. Friday morning, Highway 58 remained closed from Road 1201 to a half-mile west of Highway 14. The CHP was routing Southern California-bound traffic to coast highways.

Erik Eide told The Bee in an email that he and his wife were traveling from Southern California to their home in Tulare when they hit a detour. They were directed onto northbound Highway 14 and ended up in Mojave. They were not allowed to take Highway 58, so they continued north on Highway 14 to Highway 178 west into Bakersfield.

It took them eight hours to get home.

“What a great anniversary,” he said.

Friday, the Los Angeles Times reported that nearly 200 vehicles, including 75 tractor-trailers, remained trapped on Highway 58 east of Tehachapi in up to 20 feet of mud and debris. Drivers were taken to shelters in Tehachapi and Mojave.

In Mendota, police shut down Belmont Avenue due to a flood of water and mud stemming from an overflow at Panoche Creek. The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for the area until 2 p.m. after slow-moving water was reported on Belmont and San Diego Avenue.

The CHP incident information page reported that Belmont between San Diego and the Mendota city limits will remain closed throughout the weekend.

The National Weather Service said a drainage basin for the creek overflowed with runoff water from the mountains.

The storm system drenched portions of Southern California and also dropped rainfall in the central San Joaquin Valley. But it brought no much-needed snow to the Sierra Nevada, according to the National Weather Service. Thunderstorms also rattled windows.

Visalia had the most rainfall recorded in the central San Joaquin Valley, according to the weather service, with an overnight total of .45 of an inch.

 

Lightning was blamed for a fire that started in three large trees in Visalia and threatened two structures near Grove Avenue and Divisadero Street. Fire crews were able to put out the blazes. Damage was estimated at $5,000.

Fresno’s forecast high Friday is 85 degrees, with an overnight 66. Saturday, the high temperature in Fresno is expected to reach 78 degrees.

Tell us your story

Were you trapped (or know of someone who was) in Thursday’s mudslides on Interstate 5 or Highway 58? Let us know. Email metro@fresnobee.com

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