DESERT CENTER, Calif. - The main highway from Los Angeles to Phoenix was damaged by a flash flood that washed out part of the road through the Southern California desert in the latest bout of punishing monsoonal thunderstorms that have hit the region this month.
The latest round of flooding started Wednesday evening, damaging the eastbound lanes of Interstate 10 near the small community of Desert Center, about 165 miles (265 kilometers) east of Los Angeles.
"We have a project happening in that area on the I-10, so it’s the I-10 tune up, so the kind of silver lining to this is that we had detour lanes, and those were actually the ones that we lost to the flood and the water, so the good thing is that they were able to use the main line right now for that one lane eastbound that is allowing traffic from LA to Arizona," said Eric Dionne with Caltrans.
All eastbound traffic was diverted until the California Department of Transportation managed to reopen one lane Thursday morning. The second lane was reopened on Aug. 28.
While the highway was shut down, officials recommended that people heading from Southern California use Interstates 8 or 40, which are major detours.
"Everyone, just take [your] time," said trucker Lorne Focht. "Don't cut people off, and be patient. People get frustrated in traffic, and believe me, truckers get as frustrated as anyone."
The main highway from Los Angeles to Phoenix was damaged by a flash flood that washed out part of the road through the Southern California desert in the latest bout of punishing monsoonal thunderstorms that have hit the region this month. (Caltrans District 8)
Photos posted by Caltrans showed water rushing through a deep gouge in the pavement of the highway. Flooding also affected other roads in the region, including State Routes 177, 78 and 62.
"The infrastructure wasn’t ready for that," said Dionne. "I don’t think anything, really, that was in place probably could have stood up to it. It was just one of those things, and hopefully, we can get it open as quick as we can, but we also have to make sure the integrity of the road is still there, and we are doing it in a safe way too."
Freeway affected by similar incidents in the past
A flash flood in the same area in July 2015 washed out a bridge on the eastbound side of I-10 and eroded the ground under the westbound bridge.
The interstate was closed for nearly a week for repair of the westbound bridge, which then carried traffic on single lanes in each direction. The eastbound side did not reopen until September.
The National Weather Service said more flooding was possible through Thursday throughout a large swath of Southern California’s mountains and deserts.
Flash floods earlier this summer badly damaged roads in Death Valley National Park, the Mojave National Preserve and on the southern side of Joshua Tree National Park.
Officials called the Aug. 5 deluge in Death Valley historic. Hundreds of visitors were initially stranded by flood waters and debris-covered roads. It took about two weeks for the park to reopen its most popular areas.