Southern California Swamped by Relentless Rains
Southern California hit by severe storm
BBCnews.com, Dec. 23, 2010
A huge storm system has dumped record amounts of rain on southern California and prompted concern that the poor weather could spread across the US.
Streets flooded, residents were evacuated and authorities were on alert for landslides in the wake of the torrential downpour.
The deluge came at the end of a week that saw Los Angeles receive half its annual rainfall in just six days.
Torrential rain was also reported in neighbouring Arizona, Nevada and Utah.
There are concerns that the weather system will spread across the US, reaching New Mexico by Thursday and the Gulf Coast by the end of the week.
However, forecasters said the rain would ease as it travelled eastwards.
Even before the storm arrived, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency for half a dozen communities in California, some of which have already seen mudslides and flooded streets.
Hundreds of people were evacuated in the suburbs of Los Angeles, with particular concerns for homes in steep-sided canyons previously ravaged by wildfires.
"The ground is so saturated it could move at any time," said Bob Spencer, spokesman for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works.
There were reports of mudslides in Laguna Beach, California, as intense rain hit the region, and 25 to 30 people were evacuated from their mountain homes in Silverado Canyon, Orange County, the Associated Press reported.
Heavy rains - estimated at up to 1in (2.5cm) per hour - brought down a hillside on a heavily used section of Interstate 10 early on Wednesday, covering three lanes near the city of Pomona.
In Highland, some 65 miles (104km) east of Los Angeles, two creeks overflowed, swamping as many as 20 homes in mud.
"This mud flow moved cars, picked them up, stood them up on their nose at 45-degree angles, buried them," Bill Peters, a spokesman for the California department of forestry and fire protection told AP.
Homes in the mountains were blocked by boulders and mud as rescue workers helped residents seek shelter before the largest of the storms struck.
In far north-western Arizona, residents rushed to gather belongings from their homes along a flooded stretch where further structures risked being swept away.
"It is a mess," said Lois Rolfsmeyer, resident of Beaver Dam.
"The water is going to take our next-door neighbour's house and the one behind us, and it's eroding under our house."
On Tuesday, officials ordered the evacuation of 232 homes that sit beneath large hillsides in La Canada Flintridge and La Crescenta, in the suburbs of Los Angeles.
Flood warnings and emergency orders have also been put in place in Arizona, Nevada and Utah.
L.A.-area storm swamps beach town, cuts off roads
Worst of rain hits south of city; rail disrupted, San Diego sees power outages
Msnbc.con, Dec. 22. 2010
LOS ANGELES — Areas just south of Los Angeles — including a tony beach town that saw "rivers coming through" and its main beach washed away — were hardest hit Wednesday by the fiercest of several storms that battered Southern California since Friday.
Dozens of homes were hit by mud, at least two people were killed in storm-related car accidents, more evacuations were ordered Wednesday morning, and one rescue involved a man who called from his cell phone as his vehicle filled up with water.
Laguna Beach, where homes top $1 million, saw extensive damage as did other communities in Orange County, which also saw widespread road closures.
"There are rivers coming through town, and they’ve washed out the north end of our beach," Laguna Beach resident Jeff Grubert told the Los Angeles Times early Wednesday.
At one point, the entire downtown area was under 3 to 4 feet of water, police Lt. Jason Kravetz told NBC News, and about 10 mudslides had been reported.
A swift water rescue team saved some 20 to 25 people from their homes in the Laguna Canyon area, Kravetz added.
Dozens of homes were damaged or destroyed in the canyon when mud flows hit around 3 a.m. Some residents said neighbors had to jump out of windows to escape.
A driver just inland was rescued after veering into a flood-control channel, the Times reported. He called 911 as his car filled with water and minutes later rescue crews reached him and pulled him out safely.
New evacuations Wednesday included families in about three dozen homes in San Juan Capistrano.
Rescues, falling trees, mudslides
The Orange County Register said at least six people had to be rescued from cars in Laguna Woods at 2 a.m. after driving around barricades. Awoman was saved by a sheriff's deputy just as her car began to submerge.
The Register reported that a 100-foot eucalyptus tree had fallen on a house in Lake Forest at about 2 a.m. The homeowner said it was the second tree to hit his home.
A mudslide in Silverado Canyon, Orange County, also led to local residents being evacuated, fire Capt. Greg McKeown told NBC News.
The Orange County fire authority was also dealing with problems in the Lake Forest area, where there were reports of some flash flooding.
In addition, a rain-soaked hillside collapsed on part of a busy Interstate 10 transition road in the Pomona area as overwhelmed drains left hubcap-deep pools of water on roadways littered with fender-bender crashes.
The landslide covered three lanes of the transition and the California Highway Patrol shut down part of the ramp before Wednesday morning's rush hour.
In nearby San Bernardino County, residents of some 100 homes were told to evacuate after one home washed away and a bridge collapsed.
Many areas just north of Orange County appeared to have dodged the storm bullet. Among them were La Canada-Flintridge and La Crescenta, foothill suburbs of Los Angeles below steep hillsides that burned in 2009 and where mudslides inundated homes and backyards in February.
Officials earlier ordered the evacuation of 232 homes there, but many residents refused to leave.
Walt Kalepsch said he'd wait until "it gets really terrible."
"We've been evacuated so many times, it's like the city's crying wolf," he said. "During the rest of the year, it's absolutely gorgeous. It was just one big wildfire that changed everything."
Forecasters warned of possible rainfall rates of up to 1 inch an hour and thunderstorm rates of 2 inches an hour in the region.
"It's going to be a three-ring circus," said National Weather Service spokesman Bill Hoffer. "There's going to be a six-hour time frame in the early morning when it's really going to be dumping on us."
Areas south of Orange County were also getting hit hard.
The Los Angeles Times said streets throughout San Diego County were blocked because of floods and 15,000 homes had lost power.
It said the commuter lane of Interstate 15 was shut from Escondido to San Diego and the Coaster train from Oceanside to San Diego was unable to run because of debris on the tracks at Encinitas.
Other states impacted
Other states in the southwest have also been affected by heavy rain from the "Pineapple Express" weather system, which has swept Pacific Ocean moisture right into the Great Basin, and threatens to move across the South.
"It takes a lot of energy to push that moisture over the mountains," said National Weather Service meteorologist Dave Bruno. "This kind of storm could march right across the country and create a lot of bad weather along the way. It could affect the Southern Plains on Thursday and Friday. If it sticks together it'll hit Florida by Saturday."
Flood warnings and emergency declarations were issued in a number of Utah, Nevada and Arizona counties:
In northwest Arizona, five unoccupied homes were washed away by flood waters in the rural communities of Beaver Dam and Littlefield. The owner of one and workers were putting finishing touches to the house when then flood waters carried it away. A dozen other homes were still in danger of being destroyed.
In Utah, evacuation orders for the town of Rockville, population 247, were lifted late Tuesday after authorities determined a dam on the Virgin River was stable. Suspected leaking from the earthen dam was actually just saturated soil.
In southern Nevada, a state of emergency was ordered after rain-swollen creeks closed some roads in the Las Vegas area and snow disrupted electricity to about 300 customers on nearby Mount Charleston.
NBC News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Southern California slammed by rain storms, more coming
Warnings also issued for parts of Utah and Nebraska
msnbc.com staff and news service reports, Dec. 20, 2010
A storm walloped parts of Southern California with several inches of rain and spawned minor flooding and mudslides, and forecasters warned the bad weather's real impact may be yet to come.
More than 3 additional inches of rain expected across the region by Wednesday will hit already saturated hillsides, increasing the possibility of mudslides and flash floods, said Stuart Seto of the National Weather Service.
The relentless rains that pounded southern California through the weekend also caused numerous traffic accidents, downed trees and forced the cancellation of several horse races.
A rock and mud slide closed a scenic stretch of Pacific Coast Highway west of Malibu. The California Highway Patrol said the road was shut down at about 8:10 p.m. Sunday because of the slide near the border of Los Angeles and Ventura counties some 40 miles west of downtown Los Angeles. No one was hurt.
It was unclear when the highway would reopen.
The National Weather Service said Sunday's rainfall records include 3.45 inches in Pasadena, 3.2 inches in San Gabriel and 2.3 inches in downtown Los Angeles.
The weather service said rainfall accumulation could reach 20 inches in some isolated locations by Wednesday, when the first phase of the storm is expected to pass. After a brief respite, it is forecast to return late Christmas Day.
The weather service issued a flood warning for the central and southern San Joaquin Valley and adjacent foothills and also the Sierra Nevada and Tehachapi Mountains below 6,000 feet.
It said extra rain through Tuesday would "aggravate flooding problems in these areas and will pose a continued threat of rising water" and warned of the risk of rock slides.
The NWS said drivers should never drive into water covering the roadway saying that "flood waters are usually deeper than they appear ... just one foot of flowing water is powerful enough to sweep vehicles off the road."
The NWS also issued flood warnings for Western Kane County and Washington County in Utah, including the cities of St. George and Washington. It warned of possible ice jam flooding in Southern Hall County, Nebraska.
The system hit the state after a large storm front moving out of the Gulf of Alaska met with subtropical, moist air coming across the Pacific Ocean.
Bill Hoffer, spokesman for the National Weather Service in Oxnard, told the Los Angeles Times that such storms were unusual for December, saying they tend to happen only once every 10 to 15 years.
"It just keeps on coming," Hoffer told the paper.
In Kern County, officials declared an emergency after a second day of intense rains, a move that provides responders with faster access to country resources.
The Bakersfield Californian reported that the rains left many neighborhoods around the county dealing with high water. Some roads were closed and some homeowners stacked sandbags in hopes of staying dry.
The Santa Maria River briefly overran its banks Sunday and caused flooding in Guadelupe in Santa Barbara County, forcing an underdetermined number of people to leave their homes, fire officials said. The Santa Maria Times reported that the high waters began receding in the evening.
A flash-flood warning was in effect for some areas, particularly mountain areas still scarred by recent wildfires, while flood warnings or flood advisories were issued for most of the region.
Residents of La Canada Flintridge were among those keeping a wary eye on the rain.
More than 40 homes in the hillside city just north of Los Angeles were damaged or destroyed by a mudslide in February.
"We are holding up," said resident Lien Yang, who added he was warned to be prepared to evacuate. "It's coming down steady but not pouring. Therefore it doesn't cause a mud flow or flooding or anything like that. Hopefully, it's winding down and we'll have no threat this time," he added.
One of his neighbors, Tom Smith, spent part of Sunday afternoon placing sandbags in front of his house.
Residents feared a sequel of the February mudslide. "You come up here Thursday, and there's going to be 2 feet of mud everywhere," one resident, who asked not to be named, told the Times.
The rain triggered more than 60 accidents throughout the Los Anageles area, the California Highway Patrol reported.
Many were fender-benders but in the city of Industry, east of Los Angeles, a car carrying four members of a family hit a tree. A 6-year-old girl was hospitalized in critical condition and her father, mother and 15-month-old sister suffered lesser injuries, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
The rain even made it risky for racehorses to run. Hollywood Park canceled its final seven races Sunday after rain made a section of turf leading to the main track too dangerous to navigate.
The storm uprooted numerous trees. In Woodland Hills, north of Los Angeles, a eucalyptus tree crashed onto the roof of a home, while a 40-foot tree fell onto an apartment building in Glendale.
In West Hills, a downed tree crushed a car. No injuries were reported.
Soaked hillsides gave way to some minor mudslides in canyon areas and flooding in a few low-lying streets, but nothing serious, Seto said.
In Los Angeles, residents of a Bel Air Estates home had to be evacuated when a retaining wall collapsed and mud surged into the house, fire department spokesman Erik Scott said.
The Times said some 9 feet of snow had fallen n Mammoth Mountain and ski resorts were celebrating. "Measuring snow in inches is *so* last week: we busted out the yardstick," Mammoth Mountain ski resort boasted on Twitter.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.