An unusually high number of crashes on rain-soaked roadways created a traffic nightmare for many commuters in Southern California Thursday morning, and the problem could persist into the evening with more precipitation in the forecast.
Between the hours of 5 and 9 a.m. alone, some 365 crashes were reported in Los Angeles County, according to the California Highway Patrol. That figure is four times higher than Wednesday.
The collisions took place as rain caused minor to moderate flooding throughout the metropolitan area and created dangerous driving conditions that led to longer-than-normal commutes in an area already known for its heavy traffic.
Several major crashes involving big rigs led to multiple lane closures on stretches of the 101, 118 and 134 freeways, adding to the commuter chaos.
One driver who was rear-ended by a Caltrans truck on the 101 Freeway near Santa Monica Boulevard said roads were slick and traffic was monstrous when the fender bender occurred.
"We were all going pretty slow, it was like 10 mph, but I guess he just didn't see me – he just slammed right into me," MariAngelica Maurille told KTLA. "It was really shocking at first, but I'm fine."
Another woman who identified herself only as Mona said her normally five-minute drive to work took her an entire hour Thursday morning.
By 1 p.m., with the rain having largely subsided, traffic had calmed down significantly across the region, according to CHP.
Still, the problem could potentially persist in the evening rush-hour commute if the rain picks up later in the afternoon as expected.
The National Weather Service forecast moderate to locally heavy rain through the evening, including thunderstorms in some parts. Rain totals are expected to reach 1 to 2 inches in the coastal and valley areas, with another 2 to 3 inches – and possibly up to 4 inches – predicted to fall in the foothill and mountain areas.
As drivers gear up for another round of rain, CHP had tips to help motorists stay safe, including turning their lights on, slowing down on wet roads and leaving extra space between their vehicle and the one ahead of them. The agency encouraged drivers to stay in the middle lanes, as the outside ones are more likely to flood. Motorists are reminded to never drive through floodwaters.
"We can’t stress this enough, (rain) does not cause crashes, how you drive in the (rain) does," CHP's L.A. County account tweeted, using the rainstorm emoji.
The agency also served up one final – and very unique – tip: drive like you have a post of uncovered chili on the seat next to you.
"Drive like you have a giant pot of grandma’s famous chili sitting on the seat next to you with no lid! Don’t let it spill on your seats, because if you do, your car will be a mess and grandma will not be a happy camper," CHP tweeted, noting that's true for all conditions, but especially in the rain.