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Mudslides bury L.A. area freeway, 200 vehicles; Traffic snarled for evening commute

By Doug G. Ware

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 16 (UPI) -- Traffic near Los Angeles, already notorious for gridlock, was even more restricted late Friday after mudslides buried a major thoroughfare and forced drivers onto an alternate route for the evening commute.

Heavy rains soaked Southern California and triggered landslides Thursday. By early Friday, the mud had buried a good portion of Interstate 5 in Castaic -- about 40 miles north of downtown Los Angeles.

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"It was just like a freight train coming through," one driver told NBC Los Angeles.

Officials also said the rocks, mud and debris stranded motorists in about 200 vehicles. Dozens of semi-trucks and two tour buses were among the stranded vehicles, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Traffic in both directions on the freeway were also shut down -- although most lanes had reopened by late Friday.

The slides spelled trouble for Friday afternoon's commute, as drivers were diverted onto U.S. Route 101. Traffic was further snarled when authorities responded to a possible jumper on an overpass above the 101 highway.

Many motorists caught in the mudslides were forced to camp out in their vehicles overnight, officials said.

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Heavy rains soaked the region Thursday, which were followed by flash floods. More rain is forecast for Saturday.

Authorities said they have been checking the stability of various hillsides near roadways.

"There could always be more slide that comes down onto the road," California Department of Transportation spokeswoman Lauren Wonder said. "Our engineers are always very careful so they make sure in a flood situation, any hillside is secure. That's always precautionary."

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