Not unlike this time last year, the San Diego River rose today with the region's heavy rains and spilled over its banks. At dawn this morning river crossings in Mission Valley were knee-deep in flowing water and barricaded. As the rain continued into the day, the river, swollen by downpours in East County, flooded more streets and sidewalks, causing detours and inconveniences for Christmas shoppers and mass transit passengers.
At Fashion Valley Mall, roads, parking garages and parking lots were submerged, with security guards and MTS supervisors turning cars back and advising pedestrians not to wade in the deep, fast moving water. The nearby River Walk Golf Course was shut down early. Sidewalks and bus lanes going in and out of the Fashion Valley Transit Center were underwater and by noon buses could no longer enter and the center was closed.
Passengers were forced to line up along Fashion Valley Road and buses were making U-turns and picking passengers at the curb until all bus service was finally halted around 3 p.m.
With the bus terminal closed, trolley service was curtailed. Riders getting off the trolley on the elevated platform had no where to go without wading into the water on the lower level, and many simply got back on the trolley and continued to a station not affected by the flooding.
Ray Nafez, owner of Station Stop Café, the year-old kiosk at the Fashion Valley Transit Center, shut down around 1 o'clock. "The water in front of the kiosk was six inches deep and rising, and customers couldn't get to us," he explained. Looking like a captain who would go down with his ship, Nafez stood barefoot with his pants rolled up to his knees in front of his closed stand. "I'm now more worried about the sewer backing up into the kiosk than the rising water." He had installed rubber skirting around the kiosk last month, he explained, waterproofing the base of the building a foot above ground level. But he wasn't leaving his well-stocked kiosk, he said, until he was sure everything would be okay. "Even if I have to spend the night here, at least I'll have plenty to eat."
Outside the transit center the odor of stagnant water from the usually moribund river filled the air. An MTS supervisor stood in the pouring rain, keeping cars and people out of the transit center. Asked when he expected the bus terminal to reopen, he shook his head. "It's going to rain more tonight and tomorrow, so it's going to get worse before it gets better."
As of 4 p.m. the rain was still coming down and the San Diego River still rising.