Powerful winter storm pummels the Golden State

Amid trees, two people in helmets and red jackets stand in thigh-high floodwater, looking inside a submerged car.
Search and rescue workers investigate a car surrounded by floodwater on Sunday as heavy rain caused the Guadalupe River to swell in San José.
(Noah Berger / Associated Press)

Good morning. It’s Monday, Feb. 5. Here’s what you need to know to start your day.

A powerful winter storm is pummeling SoCal

Millions of Southern Californians are waking up to a powerful storm that’s expected to linger over the region through Monday, bringing risks of dangerous flooding, road closures, power outages and other hazards.

The slow-moving atmospheric river made its way into Southern California on Sunday afternoon after dousing the Bay Area and Central Coast earlier in the weekend. National Weather Service officials issued flash flood warnings for large swaths of San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties. The warnings were set to expire at 12 a.m. Monday but could be extended.


“Forecasters said much of the brunt of the storm appeared to be focused on the Los Angeles area, where the system could park itself for an extended period of time over the next few days,” Times reporters Hayley Smith, Grace Toohey, Emily Alpert Reyes and Roger Vincent noted in their coverage Sunday.

But surrounding regions are also bracing for considerable impacts. NWS officials in San Diego warned that they expect “catastrophic and life-threatening flooding” in Orange County, western parts of the Inland Empire, and in parts of the San Bernardino Mountains.

As of Sunday evening, the system — which officials say is the most powerful one we’ve seen this winter — was slated to drop up to 8 inches of rain on coasts and valleys, and up to 14 inches in the foothills and mountains. Snowfall totals of 2 to 5 feet are likely at elevations above 7,000 feet.

So what should Monday morning commuters expect? According to NWS meteorologist Ryan Kittell, it’s best to work from home if you can and “stay off the freeways.”

“Even if the rain does start to let up on Monday morning, just the sheer amount of rain overnight will cause lingering flooding issues into the morning hours,” Kittell said in a media briefing Sunday.

Several college campuses canceled in-person classes for Monday, including Cal State Northridge, Cal State L.A. and Cal Poly Pomona.


A hazard-filled Sunday

It wasn’t just SoCal; the atmospheric river brought heavy rain and strong winds across the Bay Area and Central Coast earlier Sunday. Thousands of residents lost power as officials worked to clear downed trees and repair power lines. Statewide, more than 800,000 people were without power as of Sunday evening.

The storm that doused SoCal last week was far less powerful than this one but was still strong enough to cause serious street flooding, notably in Long Beach. Officials were expecting this storm to be even worse.

Flooding remains a major concern for several rivers across the state, including the Ventura River, Guadalupe River and Carmel River.

On Sunday, NWS officials warned that debris flows were “imminent or occurring” and advised residents to avoid traveling and take precautions to safeguard their homes and themselves.

Evacuation warnings and notices were issued in portions of Ventura, Santa Barbara, Monterey and L.A. counties — focused near burn scars from a few recent wildfires.

Newsom’s response

In response to the powerful storm, Gov. Newsom declared a state of emergency for Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.


He also mobilized a record 8,500 emergency response personnel to help communities impacted by the storm.

“California: this is a serious storm with dangerous and potentially life-threatening impacts,” Newsom said in a statement. “Please pay attention to any emergency orders or alerts from local officials. California is ready with a record number of emergency assets on the ground to respond to the impacts of this storm.”

Read more about this week’s storm

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For your downtime

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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.

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Taggers added their marks to 27 stories of the dormant Oceanwide Plaza in downtown L.A.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Today’s great photo is from Times photographer Robert Gauthier. A graffiti-covered L.A. skyscraper made headlines last week. Taggers made their marks on roughly 27 stories of Oceanwide Plaza, an unfinished mixed-use retail and luxury apartment project. But one person’s eyesore is another’s artistic statement, as The Times’ Gustavo Arellano explored in a recent column.

Have a great day, from the Essential California team,

Ryan Fonseca, reporter

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