Powerful Storms Blow Down Trees, Trigger Power Outages, Turn Streets into Pools

RIVERSIDE – 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.

An estimated 10,000 homes and businesses were without power in northern Riverside, in the area around Magnolia Center, according to city spokesman Phil Pitchford.

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

Riverside Public Utilities was working to restore electricity, but there was no estimate on when the work would be completed.

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

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.

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

Road closures included:

— University Avenue to downtown;

— 14th Street to downtown;

— the intersection of Chicago and Central avenues;

— the intersection of Victoria and University avenues.

Frustrated motorists were making u-turns against red lights to reach side streets that were often partially or fully shut down as well, including the often lightly traveled Park and Howard avenues.

Westbound Third Street heading into downtown Riverside was one of the few arteries available, and traffic was backed up 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.

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