LOCAL CALIFORNIA

The strongest storm to hit Southern California in several years has brought torrential rain, flash flooding and powerful winds to the area.

  • The storm broke rain records at several locations.
  • An estimated 50,000 Los Angeles residents are without power after winds took down trees and utility lines.
  • Amtrak suspended service between San Luis Obispo and Los Angeles because of mudslides in the Santa Barbara area.

Strongest storm in years taking aim at Southern California

A storm that officials said could be the strongest in years moved into Southern California Friday.

Heavy rain caused mudslides, flooding and jammed roads by early afternoon, with the brunt of the storm still yet to hit the region. The 101 Freeway was closed in northern Ventura County due to flooding.

The storm is expected to dump up to 6 inches of rain on Los Angeles County beaches and valleys and 5 to 10 inches on south-facing foothills and coastal mountain slopes, according to the National Weather Service .  A flash flood watch has been issued for Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties from Friday morning through Saturday morning.

Much of that rainfall is expected to fall within a short time Friday afternoon and evening, with rain potentially falling at a rate of more than an inch an hour, forecasters said.

“The Friday morning commute is definitely going to be wet,” but the rain is just going to get heavier as the day progresses, said Kathy Hoxsie, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

"The afternoon commute is going to be a mess,” Hoxsie said. “Hopefully people can take a half day off. Being a Friday, I know a lot of people do that anyway. … The evening is shaping up to be nasty.”

The storm is likely the strongest to hit the region within the last six years, according to the weather service.

Wildfire burn scars in Duarte and Azusa are particularly vulnerable with this storm, she said.

The system also is bringing powerful southerly winds that will increase dramatically on Friday, with gusts up to 60 to 70 mph likely over high elevations in Ventura, San Luis Obispo and Los Angeles counties, as well as the Channel Islands and Santa Catalina Island, according to the weather service. Damaging wind gusts are also possible in the Antelope Valley.

“It’s going to be blowing really well,” Hoxsie said. “We’re trying to tell folks, don’t just do your usual preparation for rain, but also, if you’ve got anything outside that could be moved into the garage, this would be the storm where you should do that.”

Snow levels are anticipated to be at 8,000 feet Friday night, lowering to 6,000 feet on Saturday, according to the weather service. Because of the heavy precipitation, 1 to 2 feet of snow could fall above 8,000 feet in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, and 6 to 12 inches are possible above 6,000 feet.

Coastal waters will be dangerous Friday night and through the weekend, Hoxsie said. Swells of 6 to 9 feet are expected off the coast of Los Angeles County on Thursday, and the waves are expected to peak Saturday at 8 to 13 feet, she said.

After a brief respite Sunday, another storm system is expected to move into the region early next week, bringing several more days of rain, forecasters said.

“The storm door stays open for a while,” Hoxsie said.

The storm is part of a warm “atmospheric river.”

“It’s arriving now. It’s on our doorsteps,” meteorologist Kurt Kaplan said before 6 a.m. “It will be in Ventura in an hour…in Los Angeles probably during rush hour.”

The Central Coast was hit hard overnight, with some spots recorded we over an inch of rain.

Evacuation warnings have been issued for a swath of Santa Barbara County that was burned by the Shepa fire.

About 180 homes in Duarte were also under evacuation orders, again due to possible mudslides from area burned during brush fires.

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