Amid Brutal Winter Storm, Mudslide Shuts Down Stretch of Mulholland Dr.

There are clear signs that more damage is on the horizon as the deadly and historic weather system barrels down on Los Angeles
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As severe winter weather continues to batter the Southland, a five-mile stretch of Mulholland Drive will be closed for repairs until further notice after major flooding from weeks of winter rainstorms brought a mass of rock and earth sliding down a slope above Beverly Hills on Monday.

Though no one was hurt in the slide and the debris has been cleared from the area, emergency officials tasked with monitoring the site say they fear the intensifying wind and rainfall hillside that it’s caused will lead to the breach that’s opened in the canyon wall to further give way.

Monday’s collapse occurred on a stretch of Mulholland Dr. above the ultra-exclusive gated community of Beverly Ridge Estates—not far from the $18 million crash pad that filmmaker Tyler Perry loaned to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In fact, an evacuation is in order in Montecito, the couple’s adopted town in Santa Barbara County, as of this afternoon. The severe weather pattern now bearing down on the region south of the Tehachapi after days of pummeling Northern California.

California’s death toll from the impact of the storm, which has been pounding the Golden State since December 27, has reached 12 people as wind gusts and flooding move across the coast. On Monday, President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration request from Gov. Gavin Newsom. In a letter to the White House, sent via FEMA, Newsom warned that California’s state climatologist’s current modeling predicts “additional significant, if not historic, flooding impacts” in the counties of Mendocino, Merced, Monterey, Sacramento, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Sonoma, Stanislaus, and Ventura.

Until now, Los Angeles has avoided the worst of the atmospheric rivers, which occur when water evaporates into the air and gets carried along by the wind. Atmospheric rivers have already wreaked havoc across much of the northern half of the state. Now, it seems the days of the Southland avoiding this phenomenon appear to have ended; the storm will most likely be felt in the foothills of the Sierras in northern L.A. County, but the entire city is already drenched.

The mudslide off Mulholland Drive, which has already closed the longest section of the route above the Hollywood Hills that’s so popular with tourists, is likely a mere preview of a greater upcoming debris slide.

Meanwhile, L.A.’s roads are already experiencing an ankle-deep sloshfest. Heavy thunderstorms, squalling winds, and even isolated tornadoes are in the forecast. At 8 a.m. on Monday, the L.A. City Emergency Management Department activated the Emergency Operations Center to Level 3, the lowest level, and then announced plans to advance to Level 2 this evening if it’s deemed necessary.

In what’s being called a rare sight, the normally dry L.A. River—the site of that iconic Terminator 2 chase scene, wherein a motorcycle driven by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s android hero is barreled down on by the T-1000’s 18-wheeler—can now be seen flowing steadily with stormwater.

Safety crews are watching a smaller slide closer to Laurel Canyon, according to the City of L.A. Emergency Management Dept. Laurel Canyon Boulevard was closed last week as city work crews installed concrete barriers in anticipation of potential mudslides in the area.

“Until the major rain rolls in during the early evening hours, there is no way to know if Mulholland’s eroding road near Summit Circle will give way further, but sandbags have been arranged to divert water flow away from the main slide,” said Joseph Riser of the Emergency Management Department of the City of L.A.

But how does the current extent of damage in the city of L.A. compare to the previous rainy seasons?

“When rains extend over several weeks, mudslides are common in L.A.’s hillside areas,” Riser added. “But the Mulholland closure is likely one of the longer stretches of road to be closed in several years—within the city, anyway.”

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