Repairs are expected to begin Saturday, Feb. 16, on mountain highways in the Inland Empire so damaged by runoff from the deadly Valentine’s Day storm many were shut down.

That means sledders and snow enthusiasts  this weekend, and perhaps for several weeks, the California Highway Patrol said.

“Heavy rains, in conjunction with the burn scars from the , caused numerous mudflows and debris flows we haven’t seen in years,” CHP Officer Darren Meyer said in a YouTube video that urges motorists not to drive on flooded roads.

The intense storm dumped rain in the Inland Empire led to dozens of water rescues and mayhem throughout Riverside and San Bernardino counties after hillsides gave way and roadways turned into rivers pushing water through areas with deadly force.

At least two people died in the storm in Riverside County.

Riverside resident Stacie Mills-Nichols, 20, who lived in a flood-control channel in Riverside died after being . In the rural community of Sage in southwest Riverside County, a Friday morning, about a mile and a half from where rescuers found two vehicles that had been swept away.

Damage assessment from the deluge happened quickly, as Caltrans took steps toward highway repair early Friday.

An emergency contract for $8 million was awarded to Ames Construction to make the fixes to highways 243 and 74, Caltrans spokeswoman Terri Kasinga said, although it wasn’t clear Friday how long the construction could take.

“It could be up to a month, but we don’t know just yet,” she said.

Another contract, worth $2.5 million, was approved Friday to repair Highway 18 between Green Valley Lake and Snow Valley in the San Bernardino Mountains. The repairs will cause Snow Valley ski resort and Ski Nordic to remain closed until further notice. A third contract, for $3.5 million, will be issued for work to be done on Highway 111 in Whitewater.

The repairs, of course, are weather permitting. More rain is expected in the region Saturday night and much of Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.

Kasinga said there was a new collapse Friday on Highway 74. And Highway 243 washed out Friday about a mile from where a waterfall destroyed the road the day before, north of Lake Fulmor. The only way into Idyllwild is from Palm Desert along Highway 74, known as the Palms to Pines Highway, Caltrans said. Even then, that path is open only to residents and business owners/employees.

would be the season’s strongest were correct.

Yucaipa Ridge — a spot 9,020 feet up in the mountains east of Redlands and north of Banning that’s often the region’s wettest — topped out with 14.96 inches of rain, during the time period of Feb. 13 and 14, according to the National Weather Service.

Other areas saw less, according to NWS, but everyone got wet.

The torrential rain caused localized flooding.

Residents in the  were cleaning up Friday after a usually dry creek turned into a roaring river during the storm.

For some, the day was spent removing debris and shoveling mud, for others, it was spent clearing out a place called home damaged so severely by the moving water, that it had to be vacated.

For landlord Clay Gomes, that was the case for his tenants.

“They’re pretty much homeless now,”‘ Gomes said, of his house near the Alvarado Street culvert in Lake Elsinore.

He along with other residents near the Leach Canyon flood control channel spent the day Friday trying to get back to normal, whatever normal would be as more storms loom in the coming days.

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Colder temperatures are expected over the weekend, with NWS predicting highs to hover in the 50s for much of the Inland Empire. Snow levels could drop to 3,000 feet, according to the NWS.

More snow brings safety concerns for public safety agencies. Caltrans reminds motorists to carry snow chains — if you don’t have chains, you won’t get in — and to come prepared, bringing supplies in your vehicle for cold weather.

Updates on road conditions may be found on the  Facebook page,  and Riverside County Emergency Management’s .

Staff writers Beatriz E. Valenzuela, Jonah Valdez and Nikie Johnson contributed to this report.


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