San Diego cleanup efforts ramp up after historic storm

A woman walks by cars damaged by floods during a rainstorm in San Diego on Monday.
(Denis Poroy / Associated Press)

Good morning. It’s Wednesday, Jan. 24. Here’s what you need to know to start your day.

Recovery efforts begin after historic San Diego floods

The clouds parted over San Diego on Tuesday as residents and officials assessed the damage that torrential rain and major flooding brought Monday night.

Hundreds of people had to be rescued as local flood channels overflowed and overwhelmed infrastructure. Videos posted on social media showed cars being engulfed and swept away by stormwater and people wading through waist-high water on neighborhood streets.


The rainfall set a record for the wettest January day — and the fourth-wettest ever, according to the National Weather Service.

Nearly 4 inches of rain fell in less than three hours in some parts of the region — almost double the region’s average rainfall for the month, said Casey Oswant, a National Weather Service meteorologist in San Diego.

Thousands of people lost power and some schools remained closed Tuesday. The storm caused flooding on major roadways and led to several shutdowns, including parts of State Route 15 near Oceanview and eastbound State Route 78 near Carlsbad. Many of the region’s bus routes and the downtown trolley service were suspended. Stormwater also filled some homeless shelters, which had to be evacuated.

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria declared a local state of emergency Monday, which county leaders followed later with their own declaration. On Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency for both San Diego County and Ventura County, which was hit with heavy flooding last month. The declaration includes provisions to aid local agencies with recovery efforts, provide unemployment benefits to affected residents and suspend fees for replacing driver’s licenses and other vital documentation lost due to the storms.

As many as 100 homes may be uninhabitable due to flood damage, Gloria told reporters. He described the damage to neighborhoods as “absolutely devastating.”

“This is called climate change. It is real, it is happening,” Gloria said, “and we experienced it yesterday in San Diego.”


The storm wreaked similar havoc in nearby Tijuana, where fire officials urged residents to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel.

Typical winter storm systems come in from the northwest, but this one hit directly from the western Pacific, putting way more moisture into the air than usual. And a lot of that moisture fell as rain in a short amount of time.

The storm system has moved out of the area, but forecasters say more rain is on tap for much of the state next week. An “impactful atmospheric river event” is expected to move down through the West Coast from Jan. 31 through Feb. 5, bringing a “high risk … of hazardous, heavy precipitation,” NWS officials said.

Read more: ‘Thousand-year storm’ leaves San Diego reeling from punishing rainfall, floods

If you’ve opened this newsletter and been informed, inspired or delighted, you have editors Laura Blasey and Elvia Limón to thank. Essential California is a team effort, and a product of their passion and dedication. It’s powered by an incredible newsroom full of journalists telling important stories about the Golden State and its diverse communities.

That newsroom is feeling much emptier now. Yesterday, the L.A. Times sent layoff notices to more than 100 journalists, including Laura and Elvia. I’m proud to work with such smart, encouraging and talented people.


On behalf of the many journalists we’re losing and those that remain, I’m grateful to you for reading Essential California and supporting local journalism.

Today’s top stories

A voter holding a ballot walks toward a machine at a polling site.
(David Goldman / Associated Press)

New Hampshire primary

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Commentary and opinions

Today’s great reads

Palestinians carry a wounded girl after being rescued from under the rubble of buildings
(Abed Khaled / Associated Press)

Israeli media mostly keep Gaza’s human toll out of sight. Civilian deaths in Gaza have fueled global outrage. But many Israelis, still raw from the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, have scant interest in the war’s toll on Palestinians.

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For your downtime

A climber scales a sheer ice wall
A climber scales the ice cliffs at Lee Vining in Mammoth.
(Richard Bae / For The Times)

Going out

Staying in

And finally ... a great photo

Show us your favorite place in California! Send us photos you have taken of spots in California that are special — natural or human-made — and tell us why they’re important to you.

Y Meadow Lake in Emigrant Wilderness
Loretta Johnson and her son, Gabriel (pictured), hiked along Y Meadow Lake in Emigrant Wilderness in August 2023.
(Loretta Johnson)

Today’s great photo is from Loretta Johnson of San Mateo. Loretta writes: Emigrant Wilderness, the lesser-known cousin of Yosemite National Park to the south, boasts granite peaks, high alpine lakes, meadows and abundant flora and fauna. At an elevation of 8,596 feet, a hiker runs across a surprising structure: a granite and masonry dam built in 1910 that creates Y Meadows [Reservoir]. The 13 dams in Emigrant Wilderness are controversial; their removal and preservation have been the subject of litigation, underscoring the constant struggles over water in the state of California.

Have a great day, from the Essential California team

Ryan Fonseca, reporter
Karim Doumar, head of newsletters

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