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Debris Piles Up on Beaches and Mud Closes Incline as Santa Monica Weathers Storm  

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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

January 24, 2017 -- Debris quickly piled up on local beaches and the famous California Incline fought a mud flow that temporarily closed it as Santa Monica weathered what officials hoped Monday was the final burst of a string of the worst storms in years.

Just four months after a $17 million, 17-month retrofit, the Incline was closed again due mud and debris on Friday afternoon, although it was cleared for traffic by about 5 p.m., said Lt. Saul Rodriquez of the Santa Monica Police Department.

A broken water main also reportedly required drivers to be diverted on Monday from the vicinity of the 2400 blocks of Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica.

Otherwise, there were no reports to police or other authorities in Santa Monica of streets that were flooding, as of early evening on Monday, Rodriguez said.

"Overall, it was fine," he said. "There was nothing significant that was out of the ordinary, at least that was reported to us."

Although the storms were expected to be on the way out, rains lingered and temperatures fought to rise after dipping into the 40s. Thunderclaps were reported in areas, as was a brief burst of hail on Monday.

According to some reports, the downpours brought Los Angeles back to pre-drought numbers, with more than 14 inches of precipitation recorded as of October.

It was unclear how much rain fell in Santa Monica, which has been as parched as the rest of the region and state by five years of drought.

But the downpours left trails of trash and debris on Santa Monica's beaches from overflow from the 5,000 miles of pipes and other components of the storm drain system, said Alys Arenas, Beach Programs Manager for Heal the Bay.

Although beaches routinely feel the impact of the over-burdened drain system, the masses of garbage were worse than usual after the three storms, despite the intensity of the "first flush," Arenas said.

The "first flush" is a term used to describe the large amount of debris captured by the first big rain after a dry period.

Santa Monica Bay's pollution after the current storms "was much worse than usual," Arenas said Monday. "Take a look at Ballona Creek, which leads directly you to the bay. Take a walk there. It's very bad."

There is no final tally of the amount of debris that ended up on the Bay's beaches. Numbers compiled for the organization by volunteers showed the volume is increasing, Arenas said.

Volunteers collected 2,480,817 items of debris between March of 1999 and Monday at about 40 sites along the bay, the organization's Marine Debris Database shows.

About half of the volume was due to plastic items and those related to smoking. Santa Monica Pier North was responsible for 589,998 items, also mostly plastic and smoking related.

So far this year, volunteers logged 1,314 collected pieces of debris, the database showed.

Heal the Bay and health officials continued to advise the public to stay out local ocean waters due to elevated bacteria levels that follow heavy rainfall.

The trail the storms left was deadly. In Los Angeles, the Fire Department said a body was discovered in a regional park in Harbor City after storm waters began to recede. The department said the victim might be a man reported missing Sunday night.

Four deaths were attributed to the flooding that hit both halves of California.

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