Southern California storm updates: Snow where it's needed; 2 inches of rain in parts
The storm that disrupted life in Northern California earlier this week made its way down to Southern California early Friday morning, with downpours that caused the Los Angeles River to swell and snow in Ventura and Kern counties. Mandatory evacuations were ordered in Orange County, and homes across the region were damaged by mud flows.
The recent rains have helped boost the Sierra snow pack. As of Friday, it had climbed to 40%.
Water officials have maintained that significant storms such as last week’s drenching and this week's downpour would need to continue throughout the winter to make a significant impact on the drought.
The Department of Water Resources measures precipitation at eight stations in the Northern Sierra, which had recorded 18.3 inches of precipitation as of Friday morning or 145% of normal, according to department data. DWR experts have said the state would need about 75 inches of rain by the end of the water year (Sept. 30) to end the drought.
This week's heavy rains are expected to aid California in one of the places it needs the most help: the depleted Sierra snowpack.
Forecasters told state water officials that the storm is expected to add several feet of snow in parts of the Sierra. The state’s snowpack is important because when it melts during the summer months, the water can replenish reservoirs.
Natalie Hogan was riding in the back seat of her boyfriend's Saturn along PCH early Friday morning when huge rocks and mud suddenly plunged toward their car.
The musicians and a friend were driving north to Oxnard after a Long Beach gig and were near the county line between L.A. and Ventura counties when large rocks fell, hitting the bottom of their car. Hogan said the rocks nearly came up through the floor of the vehicle.
She said the rain was falling so hard they couldn't see anything. The car stopped and all they could hear was the sound of pounding rain and rocks tumbling down the hill.
"We knew we couldn't stay in the car in case the whole hill came down."
They got out of the car and began walking, eventually making it to Neptune's Net, a local fish restaurant where fire officials found them.
Dozens of Southern California residents in burn areas in Camarillo Springs, Glendora and Azusa saw a treacherous scenario play out Friday as communities previously scorched by wildfire were hammered by a powerful storm.
The storm, the largest to hit the Southland in several years, once again brought devastation to areas charred by wildfire. With every significant rain, residents in these communities face the threat of rocks and debris flooding their homes. -- Veronica Rocha
The wind and rain were so strong this morning that a second-story balcony on a mixed-use building in Long Beach partially collapsed, KTLA reported. The building houses a few residential units on the second story and businesses below. There were no injuries reported.
A steady stream of muddy water flowed down the side of Rainbow Drive in Glendora as Morgan Marich, 19, came outside her house around 8:30 a.m. to check on the reinforcements.
Sturdy pieces of wood, anchored to metal pipes, blocked the entrance to her driveway, while sandbags padded the ground behind the makeshift wall. Sandbags also lined the front of her house. Her pre-rain routine gets faster every time.
"I think we're kind of getting used to it," she said. "The routine of having to put everything up and go through the rain."
Sandbags and K-rails line the street in front of homes. Few neighbors are out as the rain continues its steady fall.
At about 8:45 a.m., mariachi musicians Arturo Maier and Antonio Lopez trudged to a mostly empty Mariachi Plaza. Maier carried a blue plaid umbrella, Lopez carried a bright red, green yellow and blue umbrella. The men were wrapped in coats and scarves, but their crisp white button-up shirts showed underneath.
They looked around the plaza as they walked up. It was empty.
Maier said he didn't know if they'd get work today. They come out to the plaza usually every weekend to get playing gigs.
"No matter if it's raining, we need the work," said Maier, a guitar player.
A few other musicians began trickling in, trying to keep their black uniforms dry.
Around the plaza, standing water in the road splashed every time a car turned the corner.
Nearby, the L.A. river flowed rapidly under the 1st Street Bridge, the downtown skyline shrouded in cloud.
Edward Heinlein, 66, points to a steel fence fortified with plywood.
"There it is," said the resident of Ridgeview Drive in Azusa. "That's the monster."
Heinlein points at a mass of mud that has taken over the upper part of his backyard. Tree trunks are halfway buried. A regulation basketball hoop is covered up with enough mud for Heinlein's 6-foot-tall daughter Amanda, 35, to grab the rim with ease.
Two hours ago, Heinline got the call for mandatory evacuations. His property sits at the foot of a giant mountain, burned by the Colby fire, that he says has almost a "straight down" incline. He started to pack his car.
He had tried to prepare: He replaced his fence with a stronger steel barrier, and got 400 sandbags to barricade the outside perimeter of his house. Behind the sandbags, he has plywood, covered in plastic sheeting.
But it might not be enough. He points to his stone wall, located just below the steel fence on the upper part of his property.
"It turns to Niagara Falls here with water and mud," he said.
The house is a retirement home for he and his wife. She has already evacuated to their daughter's home, and Heinlein said he may go to his son's home.
"We were hoping to get through Christmas," Heinlein said. "But we might have to move out."
Mandatory evacuations in Orange County's Silverado Canyons burn area
Homes in burn areas in Orange County’s Silverado Canyon were ordered evacuated at about 5:45 a.m. because of the danger of flooding and debris flows. The mandatory evacuation was for homes east of 30311 Silverado Canyon Road, county emergency officials said.
Of particular worry were homes against steep slopes that were burnt during the Silverado Fire, which burned more than 1,500 acres in September. The blaze was caused by the sun reflecting off metal sheeting that had been put up to keep animals out of a vegetable garden.
Amtrak has temporarily suspended service between Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo due to “severe weather conditions."
Pacific Surfliner and Coast Starlight trains are being affected, and Amtrak is providing other transportation for Coast Starlight passengers between Los Angeles and points further north on the line, the rail service said.
Service between Los Angeles and San Diego is operating as normal.
In Southern California, 69,100 customers were without power.
PG&E has reported widespread outages after 6,400 customers in San Luis Obispo County, 2,800 in Santa Barbara County and 4,100 people in Kern County, spokesman J.D. Guidi said.
He said PG&E crews from Oregon, Washington and throughout California were working quickly to restore power.
The Los Angeles Department of Water & Power reported that 11,800 customers from San Pedro to Granada Hills were without power, utility spokeswoman Terry Schneider said. The utility saw a surge in outages between 3:00 and 3:30 a.m., when strong rain and wind hit the area.
She said she expected the worst was over.
Southern California Edison crews were working to restore power to 44,000 customers from the Central Valley to the San Diego border, agency spokesman Robert Villegas said. At least 26,000 of those customers were in Los Angeles County.
Bill Patzert, climatologist for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said that although the storm did some damage, it also moved quickly and will probably not be a record-breaker.
Compare this one to the storm of December 2010, he said, when 10.23 inches of rain fell from Dec. 6 to 29, causing massive flooding.
“That one just kept coming. It was memorable,” he said. “This storm was like a 12-hour event. That was like a 12-day event.”
Although the storm is good for a region parched by years of drought, Patzert said it was important not to consider the recent rains a harbinger for the coming winter. He said after the powerful December rains of 2010, Southern California went dry.
By contrast, in December 1997 -- the massive El Niño year -- there was 2.52 inches of rain for the month. The heavy rains came in January, February and March, with a historic 13.68 inches of rain falling in February alone.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has said there’s a chance of an El Niño forming in the Pacific this winter. But even if that happens, scientists said it would be a weak one. The driest year in L.A.’s recorded history in 2006-07 happened during one such El Niño.
Patzert said the greatest upside of the recent storms were for the northern and central Sierras, where places like Southern California get much of their water.
“They’re definitely getting snow. The snow season for a change got off to a fast start,” he said. “That’s probably the biggest thing regarding drought relief.”
Evacuations ordered in Glendora but 'we're not done yet'
About five Glendora intersections and streets were closed earlier this morning because of the rains and some people around the Colby fire burn area were ordered to evacuate last night, said Tim Staab, spokesman for the Glendora Police Department.
Staab said he didn't have estimates on how many people have already evacuated.
"I would hope people would heed our advice," he said. "Because we're not done yet."
K-rails guarded homes along Rainbow Road near Sierra Madre Avenue as a small, but fast-moving stream of water rushed by.
Near a storm drain, David Fredendall, 59, checked for any tree branches or debris that might clog it.
Fredendall said he's been "sleeping lightly," and has been clearing any blockages he sees in the street since the heavy rains started around 1:30 am. He and some neighbors have already cleared cacti and rocks. He's had some experience with this -- he estimates that he's come out to clear blockages and avoid potential slides about six times since February.
He said he's staying home from work today because of the rains.
"I'm just kind of watching," he said. "We'll see what comes."
At least six homes are flooded with mud, rocks and debris as the hill behind them came down Friday morning. A living room chair is in the front yard of one home and tires are scattered across the mud covered front yard. A carpet of mud and rocks and water is streaming down San Como Lane.
All the residents were evacuated this morning but bulldozers and tractors are trying to clear the area.