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Heavy rain floods parts of south Coachella Valley

SHARE Heavy rain floods parts of south Coachella Valley

SANTA ANA, Calif. — An overnight thunderstorm that dropped more than the average annual rainfall on parts of California's Coachella Valley in one night alone caused flooding at two mobile home parks, forced road closures and dampened an elementary school, officials said Tuesday.

The early morning thunderstorm stalled for six to eight hours over Mecca and Thermal, two towns at the southern tip of the Coachella Valley 150 miles southeast of Los Angeles. It dropped 5.51 inches of rain near Mecca and 3.23 inches of rain near Thermal, said Mark Moede, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

The average annual rainfall in Thermal is just shy of 3 inches, he said.

"That's an amazing amount of rain," Moede said. "It's unusual anywhere to get a storm that sits stationary for five to eight hours. The fact that it occurred in the southern part of the Coachella Valley is even more unusual because it's typically a very arid part of the country."

In Thermal, the downpour flooded the Desert Mobile Home Park better known as Duroville, causing the park to lose one of its wells and creating concerns about overflow from sewage ponds used to treat waste there, said Ray Smith, a Riverside County spokesman.

County fire crews assessed the water and electrical systems and were providing water to the park. Residents also were advised to boil water, he said.

Several Duroville homes remained without power late Tuesday afternoon. About 1,400 people live in the park, but it wasn't immediately clear if any evacuated due to the flooding. A voluntary evacuation center was established in Mecca.

St. Anthony's Mobile Home Park in Mecca also was affected, Smith said, but fared better than Duroville.

Some flooding also was reported at Saul Martinez Elementary School in Mecca, but students doubled up in some classes and the school remained open, The Desert Sun newspaper reported.

Video clips showed Mecca residents wading through streets with water reaching their knees and cars creeping through flooded residential streets.

A federal judge appointed a receiver to take over Duroville's management in 2008 and gradually close the park and transition residents to new housing after ongoing concerns about sanitary conditions, overcrowding and fire hazards there.

The dilapidated property sits on tribal land and is therefore outside the county's jurisdiction.

At its peak, the park's population was 4,000 people, most of them migrants who work picking crops in the crescent-shaped Coachella Valley breadbasket that is also home to the annual Coachella Music Festival.

Residents were slated to relocate to a newly constructed mobile home park this year, but problems with funding delayed the move until next year.