Sunday’s ‘Pineapple Express’ expected to wallop Southern California with significant damage

Two people look at a car that is partially submerged on a street during a storm.
A car is partially submerged in the 2300 block of West Willow Street in Long Beach on Thursday morning.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning. It’s Friday, Feb. 2. Here’s what you need to know to start your day.

Sunday’s ‘Pineapple Express’ expected to wallop Southern California

Hey Alexa, play “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” by Missy Elliott

Most Southern Californians find it daunting to navigate rainy days, so a back-to-back onslaught of two turbulent storms forecast to slam the region is not music to our ears.


Fortunately, we weathered the initial blow Thursday. The first atmospheric river delivered substantial rainfall and high winds, flooding thoroughfares, including Pacific Coast Highway.

Like many cover versions of popular songs, the second version is usually much worse, and this upcoming storm system is no exception.

The arrival of the second atmospheric river, expected to begin Sunday, poses many potential threats, including dangerous seaside conditions, life-threatening and damaging flooding, power outages, and mudslides, National Weather Service meteorologist Ariel Cohen said.

Here is what you need to know:

What can we expect from the second round of storms?

“We are expecting the impacts, with a second round coming early next week, to be significantly more than those from this first round,” Cohen said. “People should be preparing in advance.”

Although it is too early to provide a precise forecast, Cohen anticipated several inches of rain from Sunday to Tuesday, with the potential for additional rainfall into the middle of next week. Expect strong winds near the coast and northward across Southern California, increasing the chance of downed trees, snapped power lines and blackouts.


People living in lower elevations, higher terrain, and coastal areas are prone to potential risks and should take the necessary precautions to stay out of harm’s way, Cohen said.

Low-elevation areas are expected to experience flooding. At the same time, canyons and higher terrain face the risk of potential rockslides and mudslides. Experts are discouraging travel in these areas.

Even the inland regions of SoCal could face hazardous conditions. Cohen said that excessive runoff and water accumulation also make urban locations highly susceptible to flooding.

How should you prepare for the storm?

Expect drier conditions Friday and Saturday, providing an opportunity to prepare for the heavy rainfall ahead.

Residents can access flood mapping tools provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services to assess the risk of flooding in their community and even their home — you can just type in your address on the California website.


With a high likelihood of flooding, Los Angeles County residents should register for flood warning alerts using platforms such as Alert L.A. County, Notify L.A. and Nixle. The National Weather Service’s Los Angeles office website regularly updates weather forecasts and warnings.

Traveling through flooded roads should be avoided. The weather service warns, “When flooded, turn around. Don’t drown.”

Additional information on preparing for flooding is available here.

Potential power outages are a concern. Charge every phone, tablet, e-book reader, and laptop. Fill your gas tank or charge your EV’s battery. Check the batteries in your flashlights and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Have supplies ready, including non-perishable food, drinking water, flashlight batteries, a fire extinguisher, cash, a first-aid kit and a hand-crank weather radio (a full list of useful items is here).

What is an atmospheric river?


Atmospheric rivers are large, narrow sections in Earth’s atmosphere that carry tremendous moisture from tropical areas. Experts refer to the “Pineapple Express” because those atmospheric rivers carry moisture from the ocean near Hawaii to the mainland.

Clouds are shown on a map of the United States
NOAA’s GOES-West satellite shows a “Pineapple Express” bringing tropical moisture to the West Coast.
(National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

Is this the “new normal” for California?

It’s hard to say. Predicting the annual return of significant storms is marked by considerable uncertainty and unpredictability.

Cohen cited the recurrence of Pineapple Expresses in 2010 and 2005 as examples of substantial storms that Southern California experienced.

“We get very dangerous weather sometimes, and we need to be prepared regardless of whether it will be more common or less common,” Cohen said.


Read more: The Times’ complete guide to storm safety preparedness.

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Have a great day, from the Essential California team

Anthony De Leon, reporting fellow
Kevinisha Walker, multiplatform editor
Karim Doumar, head of newsletters
Stephanie Chavez, deputy education editor

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