Torrential rains and flash flooding turned hillsides in Los Angeles and Kern Counties into mudflows last Thursday that cascaded over two freeways—Interstate 5’s grapevine area north of Los Angeles and State Route 58 near Tehachapi.

Hundreds of terrified motorists swept up in the mud flow escaped their vehicles as the freeways became muddy rivers.

Firefighters and swift-water rescue personnel made daring rescues, pulling passengers out of windows as cars bobbed past. One pregnant woman escaped out the sunroof of her vehicle. Others remained trapped in their cars overnight, some with mud up to the windshields. Even semi-trucks became mired in the muck.



Jessica Rose was driving to her grandfather’s funeral when she pulled off the highway onto an overpass just in time to see a wall of mud cascading towards her, the New York Times reports. Rose said, “It was like Niagara Falls but brown, like the chocolate waterfall from Willy Wonka. Cars were all crashing into each other because there was 15 feet of water.”

Interstate 5 has been reopened, by State Route 58 is expected to remain closed until at least Thursday while clean up crews work to remove several feet of mud and free up some vehicles that are still stuck. Animal rescue workers have also been hard at work evacuating pets caught up in the catastrophe. Fortunately, no fatalities have been reported. Some terrified drivers posted harrowing videos live on social media using the hashtag #mudslide.



The wild weather included up to six inches of rain in some hard-hit areas, along with hailstones the size of golf balls and even a funnel cloud spotted near Lake Hughes, near the mudslide on I-5, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Meteorologists have called the freak storm that caused the mudflows a 1,000 year event – or the worst such disaster in a millennium.

But with El Niño conditions forecast to douse California with an extreme wet winter, coming on the heels of wildfires that have denuded slopes across Southern California, last week’s severe mudslides could be sneak previews of extreme flooding conditions yet to come.