Are excessive rains the new winter normal?

Bee sheds and farmland are flooded as the resurgence of Tulare Lake continues.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning. It’s Friday, Jan. 26. I’m Shelby Grad, deputy managing editor for daily news. Here’s what you need to know to start your day.

Last year brought wild rains. This year could bring even more.

Southern California’s climate means we can go years without a washout winter. But history shows the folly of assuming the dry times are forever. Just when you think drought conditions are here to stay, a deluge arrives that brings chaos and destruction.

The region experienced a profoundly wet rain season last year. Plentiful winter storms plus the added bonus of Hurricane Hilary set many records.


The last few months have brought more extreme weather. Ventura County and San Diego County experienced massive flooding from unprecedented downpours that necessitated rescues and caused significant damage.

As The Times’ Hayley Smith and Grace Toohey reported, “both were called “thousand-year events” — or events with 0.1% likelihood in a given year.”

Climate change is bringing more extreme weather

So what is going on? An expert told them it is just one more way climate change (among other factors) is upending the state. “The idea that climate change is causing the wet and dry periods to become more extreme for California — that’s what the models have been predicting, and that’s what’s been happening,” said Marty Ralph, director of the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.

The region saw more rain Thursday. How does the rest of the winter look like? We asked Smith and here is what she said:

California is bracing for another strong system to inundate the state in the weeks ahead. A powerful atmospheric river system is taking shape in the Pacific Northwest and could deliver heavy winds, rain and flooding along the West Coast beginning Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center.


Seasonal outlooks indicate that the rest of the Golden State’s rainy season may be similarly damp — particularly in Southern California, where odds favor wetter-than-normal conditions through April.

El Niño, the climate pattern associated with warm, wet conditions in the Southland, is expected to gradually weaken this spring before transitioning back into neutral conditions. The outlook for the rest of the year remains inconclusive.

But if recent years have taught us anything, in California, anything can happen.

Today’s top stories

A pedestrian tightens a rain covering amid showers in downtown Los Angeles.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Commentary and opinions

Today’s great reads

Protesters raise awareness for hostages in Gaza and cause a traffic congestion, in Jerusalem, Israel
(Marcus Yam/Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

‘You will not sit here while our children die.’ Desperate families of Gaza hostages push for cease-fire. More than three months into Israel’s campaign to destroy Hamas, many of the families have grown disillusioned with the war and are convinced that only a cease-fire — not further military operations — will free their loved ones.

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For your downtime

Two men pose in front of a house with a lime green front door
American artist Josh Agle (aka Shag), right, and Brandon McBurney posde outside McBurney’s home, better known as the “Shag House,” in Palm Springs.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Going out

Staying in


And finally ... a powerful 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.

A man sleeps under a blanket of plastic while sharing an encampment with another homeless man at a park in North Hollywood
Raul Moreda, 61, sleeps under a blanket of plastic while sharing an encampment with another homeless man at Tiara Street Park in North Hollywood. Moreda was counted on the first night of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s 2024 census in an effort to capture a point-in-time snapshot of the homelessness crisis affecting the region.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Today’s powerful photo is from Times photographer Genaro Molina. The annual three-night Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count is underway with volunteers fanning out to tally the number of unsheltered individuals, tents, vehicles and makeshift shelters they see in their assigned census tract.

Have a great day, from the Essential California team

Shelby Grad, deputy managing editor
Kevinisha Walker, multiplatform editor
Karim Doumar, head of newsletters

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