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Rain, hail, snow battered Southern California as powerful storm hit

A bank of gray clouds hangs over a darkened Los Angeles skyline.
Clouds drift over the L.A. Basin as rain falls during the first major storm of the season.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles’ first significant storm of the season arrived Sunday night bringing with it intense lightning, rolling thunder, hail and road hazards, but no significant mudslides or debris flows in recent burn areas.

The storm pummeled Southern California, dropping as much as 12 inches of snow in high-elevation mountain areas and half an inch of rain in downtown L.A. before dawn, according to the National Weather Service.

The drenching continued throughout the day Monday, with showers and rumbles of thunder. Rainfall totals peaked at more than 3 inches in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, weather forecasters said. Whittier, Norwalk and parts of the eastern San Gabriel Valley saw hail. Total snowfall in L.A. County’s mountains was expected to range from 6 to 12 inches at elevations of about 5,000 feet by the evening.

By noon, parts of La Mirada looked as if they were covered in a light dusting of snow after the storm dumped pea-size hail.

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The storm carried in a cold front from the Northwest, said David Sweet, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

“Everybody saw that, or they were awakened in the middle of the night, when the cold front went through with the thunderstorms, a little bit of hail, gusty winds and some locally heavy rain,” Sweet said. “This is a rather vigorous system.”

The storm resulted in slow commutes across freeways and dangerous driving conditions in mountain ranges with snowfall.

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Angelenos took to social media to document the storm — the first significant rainfall the area has had since April.

“LA Rain” trended on Twitter for several hours.

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The L.A. County Fire Department had said residents in recent burn areas could get sandbags at their county fire station and advised people to avoid flooded areas, flood channels, catch basins, canyons and waterways vulnerable to floods.

But the storm did not produce significant debris flows in burn zones, said Lisa Phillips, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Water rescues did occur, however, with the Los Angeles Fire Department deploying 75 air and ground responders — including a swift-water rescue team — to assist a man and woman stranded in the L.A. River near Atwater Village about 3:30 a.m.

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Cervando Lopez Garcia makes his way to a nearby dumpster after collecting trash near the Malibu Pier.
Cervando Lopez Garcia makes his way to a nearby dumpster after collecting trash near the Malibu Pier.
(Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)

The man and woman, estimated to be in their 40s, were surrounded by 4-foot-deep storm water flowing at up to 8 mph, said LAFD spokesman Brian Humphrey.

“Moving water more than ankle-deep can knock you off your feet,” Humphrey said, noting that the river bottom can also get mossy and slippery. “It’s dangerous, and it could have been deadly.”

The man and the woman, who live near the area, were rescued by a tethered inflatable boat, Humphrey said. They declined to be taken to a hospital after they were pulled to safety.

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Humphrey emphasized the danger posed by storm water and said people often forgot that debris flows were common with significant rains. Even animal carcasses and large appliances can move through flood control channels, arroyos and creeks, he said, and he urged parents to keep children from playing in or near those areas.

“It’s been a long time since we had rain,” he said. “You can easily be pushed a mile or two down the stream and potentially lose your life.”

In Santa Ana, officials with the Orange County Fire Authority rescued two individuals Monday evening who were trapped inside a flood control channel.

Thanh Nguyen, a fire captain with the agency, said a rescue team used a boat to reach the man and woman, who were found hanging on to the tunnel to avoid being swept by away rainwater. He didn’t know how the pair had ended up there.

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“In moments, you can have a really fast-moving body of water,” Nguyen said.

Antonio Sanchez, 33, of Torrance fishes in the rain at Redondo Beach Pier on Monday.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Some additional showers were expected Monday evening throughout Southern California, but “everything is winding down,” said Phillips, the meteorologist.

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“It looks like we have just a few showers left in the area — and I would expect those to decrease in the night,” she said.

The next week should see dry weather in the L.A. area., but gusty winds are expected over the next couple days in canyons and mountain passes.


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