Mecca storm floods roadways, homes and schools

CVUSD closes Saul Martinez Elementary School on Wednesday for repairs

MECCA, Calif. - More than 5 inches of rain drenched the southern end of the Coachella valley in an area bounded by the Salton Sea communities of Oasis, Mecca, Thermal and North Shore Tuesday morning.

A nearly stationary thunderstorm dropped rain, but was slowly weakening and drifting to the southeast throughout the morning. At 10:58 a.m., National Weather Service radar indicated the heaviest rainfall had ended.

The rain started falling shortly after midnight.

Riverside County Sheriff's spokesperson Angel Ramos confirms the department was assisting Cal Fire at two mobile home parks in the Thermal area, including the Desert Mobile Home Park, commonly known as Duroville, at 68th and Pierce streets.

They were trying to determine if the flooding would prompt evacuations of both parks.  No mandatory evacuations had been called as of noon.

Just before noon, standing water was still reported at Duroville and park officials estimated about 900 residents were still in their residences.   Authorities were working with park trustees to address various issues including pooled water and flooded electrical systems

Flood waters also affected the St. Anthony's mobile home park on Highway 111.  County officials assessed conditions there.

An evacuation site for those who voluntarily decide to leave their homes is being established and will open shortly after noon at the Mecca Family and Farm Workers Services center, 91275 66th Avenue in Mecca.

Firefighters were called to help out at four flooded homes in Mecca. No injuries were reported at the homes on the 91000 block of 5th Street, but the flooding was expected to require several hours of sandbagging.

Another residence was also flooded on Avenue 69 in Thermal.

Two classrooms were flooded at Saul Martinez Elementary School in Mecca.  There was 2 to 3 inches of water in the rooms.  The school's library also suffered rain damage.  Affected students were moved to other classrooms Tuesday.

School was not canceled for the day, but later in the day administrators announced classes would be canceled Wednesday for campus repairs.  

More than 3 feet of water covered Highway 111 between Mecca and North Shore early Tuesday morning, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Major flooding was also reported along Avenue 66 east of Johnson Avenue and Highway 111. Vehicles were reported stuck.

The California Highway Patrol reported closures in Mecca on Pierce Street from 66th to 70th avenues, Hammond Road from Third Street to 66th Avenue and Lincoln Street at 66th.

The California Highway Patrol said Box Canyon road was still open as of 11 a.m. although there was a lot of debris on the roadway.

By late morning, all major roadways were open in the east valley including Highway 86, both new and old. Highway 111 was open again as well. There were various intersections shut down.

Several roads in that area were also closed due to mud and flooding, but country Road crews were slowly getting all of them open.

The Weather Service had initially forecast the rain to ease by 4:30 a.m, but it didn't finally move out until 11:30 a.m.

KESQ News Channel 3 meteorologist Jerry Steffen said Tuesday, "In the last 24-hours, Kent Sea Farms near Mecca recorded a total of 5.51 inches of rain. The average total rainfall for an entire year in Palm Springs is 5.53 inches."

Flood waters were expected to drain slowly off into the Salton Sea. Motorists and residents were expected to encounter flooded areas throughout the day.

Do not drive your vehicle into areas where water covers a roadway. Water often is deeper than it appears. Even a foot of fast moving water can push a vehicle off the road.

Stay with News Channel 3 on the air and online for continuing coverage of this east valley rainfall.

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