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Live updates: Major El Niño storm moves through; some areas soaked

A fast-moving storm soaked much of Southern California today, as frequent lightning strikes startled commuters and momentarily cut power at Los Angeles International Airport.

The storm, which had rolled south into Baja California by late morning, follows a weekend of rainy weather, traffic accidents and several swift water rescues.

Northern California also saw its share of weather drama as powerful storms dumped rain across coastal regions and piles of of snow in the Sierra.

Stay with us for more on driving conditions and the storms.


El Niño storms dump up to 5 feet of snow in Sierra

The weekend El Niño storms dumped up to 5 feet of snow in the Sierra Nevada, according to the National Weather Service.

That's good news for drought-ravaged California, because the Sierra Nevada snowpack is a key source of water. 

Heavy snow and rain in Northern California over the last few months have boosted reservoir levels, which had been critically low. 


Reservoirs in Northern California get significant boost from rains

Big rainfall totals in L.A. area

The National Weather Service released rainfall totals for the last 72 hours. Among the areas that saw significant rainfall were:

--Pasadena 2.30 inches

--Bel Air 1.93

--Beverly Hills 1.80

Other areas got less rain during this period. Downtown L.A. saw just over 1 inch while Long Beach only got half an inch.

More storms expected this week in Northern California

High surf in the Bay Area has Pacifica officials monitoring crumbling cliff

With forecasts calling for surf that could reach 19 feet, a crumbling cliffside in Pacific will be shored up with a fence Monday as crews get ready to demolish coastal apartments teetering on the brink.

Pacifica officials are closely monitoring the El Niño storms, which they say have accelerated coastal erosion of the city’s seaside bluffs. A high surf advisory is in effect until 10 a.m. Tuesday for Sonoma County to Monterey County beaches. The National Weather Service warned that coastal erosion from the powerful surf could endanger beach visitors.

Depending on the weather conditions, crews on Tuesday plan to start knocking down a vacant 20-unit apartment building on the 300 block of Esplanade Avenue. The building has been closed since 2010 when city officials were forced to declare it unsafe for residents.

“The vacant building at 320 Esplanade poses a significant risk to public health and safety and the City is taking immediate action to tear it down,” City Manager Lorie Tinfow said in a statement. “Deteriorating conditions on the adjacent bluffs present a clear danger to residents, and demolishing this structure is the only way to prevent it from crumbling to the beach below.”

Isolated thunderstorms possible through evening

#LArain precipitation totals

The cold storm system that pummeled Southern California on Monday brought nearly half an inch of rain to downtown Los Angeles, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Below are 12-hour rainfall totals, reported by NOAA, from midnight to noon:

  • Van Nuys: 0.43 inches
  • Long Beach: 0.13 inches
  • LAX: 0.32 inches
  • Bel Air: 0.27 inches
  • Culver City: 0.38 inches
  • Burbank: 0.31 inches
  • San Dimas: 0.48 inches
  • Avalon: 0.11 inches
  • Fullerton: 0.17 inches
  • Oceanside: 0.42 inches
  • Oxnard Civic Center: 0.48 inches
  • Santa Susana: 0.5 inches

Winter storm continues to wreak havoc in Northern California

A winter storm that brought several feet of snow to Northern California over the weekend continued to cause havoc Monday morning, prompting some school closures and delays for mountain communities along the Sierra Nevada.

Snow and treacherous road conditions forced the Pollock Pines Elementary School District in El Dorado County to close two schools. Other school districts delayed classes due to weather conditions.

The Lake Tahoe area received 3 to 5 feet of new snow over the weekend, said meteorologist Zach Tolby of the National Weather Service.

Most of the snow fell along the Sierra Crest, so areas such as Lake Tahoe didn’t receive as much precipitation as forecasters expected, he said. That was likely because the winter storm was farther offshore than projected.

The storm began blanketing the area with rain and snow on Friday night into Saturday morning; severe weather resumed Sunday night. The California Highway Patrol shut down Donner Pass at Interstate 80 for a period Sunday due to blizzard conditions.

In Olivehurst just north of Sacramento, a female passenger was killed and a man was arrested after their car became submerged in floodwaters Saturday night, KCRA-TV reported.

Heavy rain in the area caused flooding along Highways 70 and 65, and authorities said Neng Yang, 55, of Sacramento drove the vehicle into the deep water. The car was fully submerged.

Yang was able to escape, but the 51-year-old woman was trapped and died, the news station reported. Yang was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.

Strong winds reaching up to 76 mph swept through portions of Northern California on Saturday night. Wind speeds topped at 67 mph in Chico and 53 mph in Sacramento.

In the Bay Area, the storm caused powerful surf reaching up to 15 feet Sunday, according to the weather service. Surf could top 19 feet by Monday night, forecasters said.

More rain expected later this week

Garcetti talks El Niño from LACMA Rain Room


With a new El Niño storm bringing rain to Southern California, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has posted a public service announcement -- from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's Rain Room.

Garcetti picked the ironic venue to talk about rain safety and point residents to the city's El Niño Web page.

The storm hit the Monday morning commute hard with rain, thunder and lightning Monday. Drivers were startled early Monday by the rumble of thunder, frequent lightning flashes and hail.

The storm brought pea-sized hail to much of the Southland, covering the ground in areas near Sierra Madre and Altadena, said Stuart Seto, a weather specialist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard. In areas experiencing thunderstorms, lightning is possible throughout the evening, he said.

The system also brought strong winds, with reports of gusts up to 64 mph near Point Mugu in the Santa Monica Mountains and gusts over 50 mph in other mountain areas, Seto said.

This is not the first time Garcetti took to personal videos to communicate with the city. When demolition of the 6th Street Bridge caused the 101 Freeway to be closed, Garcetti performed a slow-jam to mark the event.

Storm system hits Orange and San Diego counties, Inland Empire

The cold storm system that slammed Los Angeles and Ventura counties early Monday didn't forget about residents farther south, forecasters said.

Heavy rain, hail and lightning were reported throughout San Diego and Orange counties and the Inland Empire, as the cold front moved south-southeast, said Alex Tardy, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Diego. 

"This storm is moderately intense," Tardy said. "It's not normal for the past five years, considering what's going on with the drought, but we should be getting storms like this in the middle part of the winter. It's not spectacular, but it's a healthy storm."

The storm dumped about a quarter to half inch of rain as it moved through far-southern California counties, Tardy said. The heaviest rain would come Monday morning, with showers expected throughout the day and night, he said. 

The "most organized" part of the storm moved through San Diego County between 8 and 9 a.m., after it moved through counties farther north, Tardy said. 

The National Weather Service issued severe-thunderstorm warnings throughout the morning in the region, and there were numerous reports of small hail, Tardy said.

The storm brought strong wind, which "appears to be strongest behind the heavy rain as the front moves through," Tardy said. 

Solana Beach reported wind gusts of 57 mph, and Imperial Beach gusts of 48 mph, he said.   

High temperatures around 10 to 15 degrees below average in lower Southern California on Monday are expected to warm to near average on Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service

The forecast for today

 (@latimesgraphics)
(@latimesgraphics)

Storm effects: Lightning, wind and cooler temperatures

The El Niño-fueled storm system pounding Southern California this morning isn't just bringing rain to drought-weary Angelenos. It has also served up strong winds, lightning and hail.

The cold storm front brought pea-sized hail to much of the Southland, covering the ground in areas near Sierra Madre and Altadena, said Stuart Seto, a weather specialist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard. 

In areas experiencing thunderstorms, lightning is possible through Monday evening, Seto said. 

The system also brought strong winds, with reports of gusts up to 64 mph near Point Mugu in the Santa Monica Mountains and gusts of more than 50 mph in other mountain areas, Seto said.

Tuesday is expected to be cloudy and the start of a gradual warmup as the cold front moves out, Seto said. Still, temperatures are expected to be chilly this week.

In downtown Los Angeles, the forecasted high for Monday is 62 degrees, several degrees below normal, he said. High temperatures are forecast in the low 70s through the week in downtown and are expected to drop Saturday "as we get another shot of showers coming at us," Seto said.

Beach report = poor conditions

Lightning delays flights at LAX

Some flights at Los Angeles International Airport were delayed today when lightning strikes briefly knocked out power in all terminals, the Associated Press reported.

LAX spokeswoman Nancy Castles said backup systems kicked in after electricity was lost around 6 a.m.

Castles said lightning was spotted as this morning's storm passed over the airport. Power was restored in all terminals within about an hour, she said, and two flights were diverted to Ontario International Airport.

Some arriving and departing flights were delayed, but no cancellations were reported.

Tips for driving in the rain

Few Los Angeles stereotypes are as enduring — and at least partly true — as the one about how badly residents drive in the rain. Here are some basic tips to get you through:

  • Turn on headlights.
  • Slow down.
  • Don’t tailgate.
  • Plan ahead.
  • Pay attention.

The love affair continues

 (Los Angeles Times)
(Los Angeles Times)

Stormy skies? Scores of accidents?

Commuters along the 710 Freeway got a little encouragement this morning as they fought their way through the rain.

We love it!

Another lightning fire, this time in Koreatown

Warning for mountain travelers

Travel in the mountains should be avoided, but if it is necessary, carry chains and a survival kit.

National Weather Service statement

Forecasters issued a winter storm warning for mountain areas in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, and have warned against mountain travel.

Significant snow accumulation is expected above 6,000 feet, with light snow accumulation possible down to 4,000 feet. That's low enough to affect drivers traveling through the Grapevine. Many areas above 5,000 feet will see five to 10 inches of snow by Monday night, forecasters said.  

What, no rain day?

When my 8-year-old, a Southern California native, woke up today, he announced: "I shouldn't have to go to school in this weather!"

Looks like he's out of luck.

If you have a rainy-day story or photo to share, use the hashtag @LATweather.

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