Relentless downpours make history and raise concerns about L.A. flood readiness
Good morning. It’s Tuesday, Feb. 6. Here’s what you need to know to start your day.
- Historic rain continues to impact Los Angeles
- UCLA Fowler Museum is initiating returns of looted African works
- 31 L.A. sandwiches that are better than “the best sandwich in the world”
- And here’s today’s e-newspaper
Relentless rain makes history and raises concerns about L.A. flood readiness
Historic rainfall levels are prompting concerns about the sustainability of L.A. County’s byzantine flood control system.
Meanwhile, there is no such thing as a “rain day off” for Southern California schoolkids. Los Angeles Unified and school districts throughout the region — with only a few exceptions — are open as parents, students and teachers push through the downpours.
Here is the latest storm update.
Flood prevention a concern in L.A.
As record precipitation thrashes the region, local engineers, officials and residents are concerned about whether Los Angeles County’s flood control system can cope with increasingly frequent extreme weather events, The Times’ Louis Sahagún reported.
Officials credit the county’s flood control infrastructure —constructed over the last 100 years and based on 20th century hydrologic records— for successfully absorbing a copious amount of rainfall and immense mudflows.
The network of 18 dams, 487 miles of flood-control channels, 3,300 miles of underground storm drain channels, and dozens of debris basins successfully steered countless gallons of water and flowing debris away from communities from Sunday into Monday.
Officials attribute this accomplishment to extensive preparations, including the massive dredging of key debris basins and clearing storm drains in areas deemed most susceptible to flooding.
However, given the frequent occurrence of significant storms in the area, how sustainable is L.A. County’s flood infrastructure?
“The system can handle multiple atmospheric rivers, as long as they have some spacing between them,” Dena O’Dell, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, told The Times. “When they are back-to-back without a break, the system could be tested.”
Social media is flooded with videos depicting rushing waters in the L.A. River.
The city is particularly worried about mudslides and flooding in Studio City, Encino, Baldwin Hills, Baldwin Vista and La Tuna Canyon, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said.
As of Monday morning, Fire Chief Kristin Crowley told The Times that the L.A. Fire Department had responded to 130 flooding incidents and 49 mud and debris flows, with more incidents anticipated.
Astronomical rain totals
The storm brought significant rainfall, drenching parts of L.A. County with 10 inches in the first two days, surpassing February’s monthly average, according to the National Weather Service.
“It’s pretty relentless; nothing of the intensity we saw last night, but the rains really are not letting up until, possibly, Thursday,” said Ryan Kittell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.
Downtown L.A. recorded 5.62 inches of rain in a 24-hour period, exceeding the monthly average for February, which is 3.80 inches.
Sunday’s downpour had ranked as the region’s 10th-wettest calendar day since record-keeping began in 1877, and the two-day rainfall tally was expected to break into the top five in history, Kittell told The Times.
California has already experienced 90% of its yearly rainfall average, totaling 11.5 inches, as of Sunday. California measures its annual precipitation cycle from October through the end of September.
L.A. County areas with nearly 10 inches and above include:
- Santa Monica Mountains, at the Topanga fire station: 10.67 inches
- Bel-Air: 10.46 inches
- Sepulveda Pass, near the Skirball Cultural Center: 10.28 inches
- Brentwood: 9.90 inches
L.A. schools remain open
Despite the heavy rainfall and warnings to avoid non-essential travel, the city’s public schools remain open. This decision was made by Los Angeles Unified Supt. Alberto Carvalho, in collaboration with city and county officials.
L.A. students and school employees braved the elements Monday, and about 63% of students and 90% of teachers and other staff showed up for school.
“I spoke with parents who extended their appreciation for the fact that we maintained our school sites open,” Carvalho said. “I spoke with a mother, single parent, who was an essential worker and nurse who had to go to work, and she did not know what to do if the school was not open for her child.”
Among the challenges: One campus experienced a power outage and four others lost phone service. On average, buses were 30 minutes late to school Monday morning, according to Carvalho’s tally.
“We have had thus far a rather successful school day. The numbers don’t lie,” he said during a news conference with Bass and other officials at the city’s emergency operations center.
Aware that officials were urging people to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary, Carvalho emphasized that parents and employees should not travel if they believe it is unsafe.
For Southland college students, classes moved largely online.
Read more about this week’s storm
- Does insurance cover flooding and mudslides?
- The terrifying forces that created a California monster storm.
- How a ‘bomb cyclone’ helped fuel California’s deadly storm.
- He jumped into storm-swollen waters to save his dog. Then he had to be saved.
Today’s top stories
- ICE kept a California immigrant in solitary confinement for two years, study finds.
- Bad blood: Newsom calls GOP conspiracies about Taylor Swift ‘sad and pathetic.’
- California Sen. Padilla splits with Biden on proposed immigration and foreign aid package.
- Why are Nevada Republicans voting twice this week? And does it matter?
- With a nudge from Newsom, a new bill aims to legalize psychedelic-assisted therapy in California.
- Mike McGuire is everywhere. Can he harness his energy as California’s new Senate leader?
Crime and courts
- Newsom to send 120 California Highway Patrol officers to fight crime in Oakland.
- Rebecca Grossman was impaired before deadly crash, an investigator testifies.
More big stories
- Country singer-songwriter Toby Keith dies after battle with stomach cancer.
- Restaurant workers wanted to unionize at this L.A. hotel. Now the restaurants are closing.
- The Hollywood Bowl 2024 lineup includes Marvel, Patti LaBelle, Beck and a Roots Picnic with Queen Latifah.
- In a highly unusual move, UCLA Fowler Museum is initiating returns of looted African works.
- The sun is setting on “CNN This Morning.” It will have its last airing later this month.
- California says it prioritizes climate goals over freeway widening. So why is the 15 Freeway getting more lanes?
- UCLA doubles down on ethnic studies expansion amid fraught national politics.
- Oscars 2024: The five categories still up for grabs ... and who’s going to win.
- Racist history lives on in millions of housing records. L.A. County is about to fix that.
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Commentary and opinions
- Opinion: California has a $38-billion deficit. So why are we still paying for prisons we don’t need?
- Editorial Board: One L.A. County Superior Court judge deserves reelection. Another doesn’t.
- Sammy Roth: Hate the storm? Then start getting serious about climate change.
- Gustavo Arellano: Why Wendy Carrillo says her DUI was a ‘blessing in disguise.’
- Mary McNamara: For years, the Reagans’ daughter regretted some things she wrote. Now she’s at peace.
- Dylan Hernández: Taylor Swift-Travis Kelce is the cliché queen-football star romance that America loves.
- Patt Morrison: Was L.A.’s Ellen Beach Yaw the proto-Taylor Swift?
- Michael Hiltzik: Chuck Philips (1952-2024) singlehandedly made music industry journalism better.
Today’s great reads
An ex-NFL player died in custody. His grieving family demands to know what happened. Like his father, Stanley Wilson Jr. played in the NFL and battled drug use and mental illness. The father found redemption. But could anything save the son?
Other great reads
- In the Mexican city that once perfumed the world, a push to revive vanilla.
- “Everything I do is for him.”UCLA’s Dylan Andrews gets relentlessness from his “Pops.”
- How Margot Robbie overcame a “palpable and debilitating” panic to make “Barbie.”
- 57 Super Bowls changed the lives of winning quarterbacks ... and there are only 34 of them.
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For your downtime
- 🥪 31 L.A. sandwiches that are better than “the best sandwich in the world.”
- 🏠 Cool cats and tiki treats: Inside the outrageous Midcentury Modern Shag House in Palm Springs.
- ☕ 📚The Arts District in downtown Los Angeles is gritty. But it’s also a vortex of creative energy with a thriving community built on legacies of art, punk and industry.
- 📖 Freed from conservative Singapore, a queer writer finds complicated truths of “Monster Island.”
- 🦐 Here’s a recipe for shrimp in vanilla sauce.
- ✏️ Get our free daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search and arcade games.
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.
Today’s powerful photo is from Times contributor Carlin Stiehl. An atmospheric river pummeled California on Sunday, sending rain, clouds and winds.
Have a great day, from the Essential California team
Anthony De Leon, reporting fellow
Kevinisha Walker, multiplatform editor
Stephanie Chavez, deputy metro editor
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