A series of warm Pacific storms will continue to batter Southern California with strong winds, heavy downpours and snowfall Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.
The wet weather is expected to last through midweek, in a pattern so unusual that it has forecasters scratching their heads — particularly because this is a La Niña year, when ocean temperatures near the equator cool. Such years often involve colder, drier conditions in Southern California, said Bill Patzert, a climatologist for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge.
“I call La Niña the diva of drought for Southern California,” Patzert said. “But the rainfall looks like El Niño.”
As a result, some areas might receive their highest one-week rainfall totals in recent years.
There were periods of heavy and light rain across the region Saturday.
“The storm system is like a symphony,” Patzert said. “Right now we’re in the overture; we’re getting the quiet part of the symphony.”
Quiet enough for Vince Stewart and Jordan Gray, both 22, to take a simple stroll in the light rain in downtown Los Angeles.
“I love walking in the rain,” Stewart said. “Although I wore the wrong pair of shoes.”
“I keep splashing on puddles just to rub it in his face,” Gray said, smiling.
Authorities said the rain led to a predictable spate of traffic accidents on the region’s freeways, but most of them were minor.
In northern San Diego County, the storm dumped a heavy load of rain in the morning before moving south. The sky remained gray and the winds chilly, but Christmas shoppers still turned out in force. Parking lots of shopping centers filled up rapidly.
“It’s Christmas; what’s a little rain? OK, a lot of rain, but it’s still Christmas,” said Christine Lagenesse, 47, as she parked her SUV outside a bookstore in Carlsbad, eager to take advantage of a going-out-of business sale.
About 2 to 5 inches of rain was expected to fall Sunday in the coastal and valley areas, and 5 to 10 inches in the foothills and mountains, according to Stuart Seto of the National Weather Service. Snow levels are expected to remain above 9,000 feet and then begin to fall by Monday, he added.
Because Los Angeles County crews fear flooding in the foothills, county roads in the Station fire burn area will be closed.
Forecasters initially attributed the big rainstorm to a “Pineapple Express,” a weather pattern that delivers moisture from the Hawaii area to the Pacific Coast. But the system hammering Southern California is actually caused by a large plume of subtropical moisture that is stretching from Asia. The plume “is mixing with a low-pressure system, and it’s creating heavy periods of rain,” Seto said.
A flash flood watch is in effect through Sunday night in recent burn areas in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties.
Residents of areas burned by the Station fire are advised to move their cars off the streets and monitor news reports and an L.A. County Public Works Department website, at https://dpw.lacounty.gov/care, for updates.
In February, a slow-moving rainstorm triggered severe flooding in La Cañada Flintridge. A blocked drain caused a torrent of muddy water to flow into more than 40 homes and pushed several parked cars down Ocean View Boulevard.
Another period of heavy rain is expected Tuesday and Wednesday, Patzert said. “December came in as a lamb, and it’s going out like a lion.”
Times staff writers Tony Perry and Dan Weikel contributed to this report.