El Niño storm delivers an inch of rain in parts of O.C.; more wet weather ahead

Orange County's first significant El Niño-related storm of the year dropped more than an inch of rain on Costa Mesa, Newport Beach and Irvine on Tuesday as part of what could be a week of wet weather.

Southwest winds of up to 15 mph, with gusts up to 20 mph, coupled with pouring rain Tuesday morning through the mid-afternoon, creating slick roads and other potentially treacherous conditions. However, no significant accidents, damage or injuries were reported, authorities said.


By 4:30 p.m., Newport Beach and Irvine had received 1.02 inches of rain, while Costa Mesa received 1.06 inches, according to data from Orange County Public Works.

Forecasters believe Tuesday's storm was the heaviest in a series that is expected to last through Friday evening. A chance of showers is forecast for Saturday and Sunday, with mostly sunny skies expected Monday.


The National Weather Service issued a flash-flood warning Tuesday morning that is expected to last through Wednesday night. The threat of flooding and mudslides is most severe in recently burned areas, as well as steep or unstable terrain, according to a statement from the weather service.

"Urban flooding and minor flooding of small streams and low water crossings will also be possible," the statement said.

The Pacific storms not only will bring rain and wind but also ocean swells that have the potential to damage beach structures like piers, officials said.

At local beaches, surf rose to 4 to 7 feet Monday evening and is expected to grow to 5 to 8 feet through Wednesday. The largest swell is expected to hit Thursday through Friday morning, with waves 8 to 15 feet high in areas north of Newport Beach.

"This will produce surf capable of damaging coastal structures as well as coastal flooding and beach erosion," the weather service said.

Most surfers abandoned Newport Beach waters by late Tuesday morning as waves pounded the shoreline, lifeguard captain Boyd Mickley said.

"It's just ugly out," he said.

The storms are the year's first attributed to the effects of El Niño, a warming of the equatorial waters of the Pacific that can result in heavy rain in California. Such storms are expected to peak in January, February and March.


Local preparations

This year's El Niño is expected to be one of the most powerful ever recorded, and in response, local cities are stockpiling sandbags for residents, as well as cleaning and inspecting storm drains.

"Residents of Southern California — especially those living in or below burn areas … now is the time to take action," the National Weather Service said.

During storms or unusually high tides, Newport Beach residents may pick up 10 empty sandbags at no cost at the city corporation yard, 592 Superior Ave. Proof of Newport Beach residency is needed to obtain the bags, which can be filled with beach sand to help protect homes against flooding, according to city Public Works Director Dave Webb.

City crews also are prepared with 18 pumps that can drain standing water from streets in flood-prone areas such as the Balboa Peninsula and Balboa Island.

In Costa Mesa, the city is providing each resident with up to 15 free sandbags, which can be picked up at Fire Station 4, 2300 Placentia Ave., as well as at the City Hall parking lot, 77 Fair Drive, and the Donald Dungan Library parking lot, 1855 Park Ave.

The city's public works staff cleared vegetation to make paths for water to run and placed sandbags and water-diverting structures in Canyon Park, and placed 7,000 sandbags in Fairview Park in preparation for the storm.

"Both locations have had high-water issues in past winters resulting in property damage," according to a city statement.

Irvine residents can pick up 10 free filled sandbags at the city's operations support facility, 6427 Oak Canyon Road. The Orange County Fire Authority also has sand and bags available at Station 36, 301 E. Yale Loop, and Station 47 at 47 Fossil.

Laguna Beach is offering 10 free filled sandbags to residents and business owners 24 hours a day on a first-come, first-served basis at two locations — the Act V parking lot at 1900 Laguna Canyon Road and the Aliso Beach Park inland parking lot at 31118 S. Coast Hwy.

Laguna also offers free unfilled sandbags at its four fire stations: 501 Forest Ave., 2900 Alta Laguna Blvd., 285 Agate St. and 34646 Second Ave. Unfilled sandbags cannot be filled with sand from the city's beaches or playgrounds.

In Huntington Beach, residents who show identification and a current utility bill can get up to 20 free sandbags per household. The bags can be picked up between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. at the city corporate yard, 17371 Gothard St. Bags also are available at the Edison Community Center, 21377 Magnolia St., and the Warner fire station, 3831 Warner Ave.

Serna writes for the Los Angeles Times. Times Community News writer Bryce Alderton contributed to this report.