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Storm slams Southern California: Expect more flooding and thunderstorms

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Forecasters said the weekend storm was the strongest in several years. It set new rainfall records on Sunday and caused widespread flooding after several hours of sustained, pouring rain.

Key info

  • Rain will continue today, though it’s likely to be less intense than it was over the weekend
  • The city of Duarte has issued evacuation orders for residents living in the areas burned last summer by the Fish fire in the San Gabriel Mountains near Azusa.
  • Santa Clarita issued notices for about 120 homes in the vicinity of last summer’s Sand fire.
  • Evacuations were also ordered in burn areas in Silverado Canyon in Orange County and parts of Santa Barbara County.

Storm waves destroy famed ‘cement ship’ in Northern California

Storm-fueled waves in the Monterey Bay this weekend smashed the remains of the Palo Alto, a famed World War I-era vessel dubbed the “Cement Ship,” which is moored in the town of Aptos, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

According to the National Weather Service, monster surf on Saturday set a new wave height record for Monterey Bay: 34.12 feet. The previous record was 32.8 feet, set in 2008.

The Palo Alto, whose stern was connected to a pier at Seacliff State Beach, was no match for the ocean’s might. The waves snapped the stern section of the ship and flipped it over.

Last February, El Nino waves severely fractured the ship, which has been crumbling for years and was already split into several pieces before the massive waves this weekend accelerated its demise.

“We’ve seen very large surf, with very little break in between, and it’s that repeated beating down by the ocean that seems to be having the biggest effect on the ship this year,” Bill Wolcott, a California State Parks public safety superintendent, told ABC 7 News.

The Palo Alto was built in 1919 for use as a tanker in World War I, but was not completed in time, according to the Aptos History Museum. It was stripped, then rebuilt to include a ballroom that hosted musicians including Benny Goodman, Paul Whiteman and Tommy Dorsey.

The ship has been moored at Seacliff Beach since 1930 and has remained a popular tourist attraction for the town.

“Everybody is running down to check it out, because it’s a significant change in the way the ship looks” after this weekend’s storm, Aptos History Museum curator John Hibble told ABC 7.

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Thunderstorms, flash flooding possible as storms continue Monday

The rains that deluged Southern California over the weekend are set to continue Monday, with a possibility of thunderstorms and flash flooding throughout the region, according to the National Weather Service.

The storm, which forecasters said was the strongest in several years, set rainfall records on Sunday and caused widespread flooding after several hours of sustained, pouring rain. Although the rain will continue Monday, it will not be as intense as it was over the weekend, forecasters said.

“Today’s going to be more of a variable day, nothing like yesterday where we had moderate to heavy rain for most of the day,” said Bonnie Bartling, a weather specialist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard. “We’ll see some sun, then some showers. Nothing too organized.”

The weather service has issued a flash flood watch for all of Los Angeles County through the afternoon, and a winter storm warning for the mountain areas until 6 p.m., Bartling said.

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Rock slides shut down Topanga Canyon Boulevard in Malibu

(Caltrans)

Topanga Canyon Boulevard was closed to traffic on Sunday because of rock slides, and transit officials said it could take up to three days for the road to reopen.

The California Highway Patrol said the road was closed from Pacific Coast Highway to Grand View Drive, a roughly 3.5-mile stretch. The closure will mostly force residents of Topanga, a bohemian enclave in the Santa Monica Mountains, to travel in and out of the area from the San Fernando Valley.

Photos of the road posted by Caltrans show boulders, small rocks and dirt over a segment of the two-lane road.

The city of Malibu said that Malibu Canyon Road remained closed in both directions.

Debris and mud were also reported around Pacific Coast Highway and Puerco Canyon Road, where motorists were advised to use caution. Mud and rocks were also reported on PCH at Carbon Canyon Road, city officials said.

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Heavy snow forces closure of I-80 in the Sierra Nevada

Westbound traffic on Interstate 80 was closed at the Nevada border, and eastbound lanes were closed in Colfax.
(California Highway Patrol)

Heavy snowfall on Sunday closed a roughly 70-mile stretch of Interstate 80 in the Sierra Nevada, halting a major thoroughfare between Reno and San Francisco.

The California Highway Patrol said the westbound lanes of the freeway were closed at the Nevada state line. Eastbound lanes were closed in Colfax, about 50 miles northeast of Sacramento, according to the CHP.

The freeway was estimated to reopen at 1:30 a.m., according to the state Department of Transportation.

The National Weather Service said “crippling” amounts of snow were expected to coat the Sierra, with 2 to 4 feet of snow expected around Lake Tahoe. Elevations above 7,000 feet were expected to see 3 to 6 feet of snow by Monday.

The mixture of strong winds and heavy snowfall prompted authorities to issue an avalanche warning for the Sierra backcountry.

Earlier Sunday, the winter storm briefly forced the closure of Highway 395 between Bishop and June Lake, limiting access to Mammoth Mountain. The popular ski resort said all lifts were closed Sunday because of the intense storm.

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L.A.'s rainfall since Oct. 1 — more than 13 inches — has been 216% of normal

Southern California has been mired in a six-year drought. But Sunday’s storm is part of a larger shift toward wetter conditions that began last fall. Since October 1, downtown L.A. has received more than 13 inches of rain — 216% of normal rainfall for this period, which the National Weather Service said was 6.26 inches.

Officials said that much of the Southland remains in drought but that the storms of the last few days are helping.

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Laurel Canyon closed again

Laurel Canyon Boulevard was closed in Hollywood Hills at Kirkwood Drive because of a downed tree.

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Video shows firefighters rescuing motorists stranded in flooded intersection

Sunday’s storm brought record rainfall to Long Beach and left scores of intersections flooded.

No injuries were reported. But Long Beach fire officials said they did rescue a few people who got stranded in the water.

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So far, so good in burn areas

In the Duarte burn area, many residents decided to stay in their homes home, despite mandatory evacuation orders. Rudy Fuentes, an elementary school teacher, said he stayed behind to protect his home in case things really got out of hand, though he said, “I hope it doesn’t come to that.”

His driveway was covered in about two inches of mud from Friday’s rains and mudflow, and he tied plywood across the driveway to protect it. He’s also got sandbags and, on Friday, and he and his son dug a couple of trenches.

“We just decided to stick it out,” Fuentes said.

Jerry Katz, a 25-year resident of the neighborhood, wasn’t worried at all. He didn’t put down sandbags or dig trenches. He blamed nervous lawyers for the city’s orders to leave.

“The real problem is I can’t take my son to Cheesecake Factory tonight,” Katz said.

Orange County officials remained on guard, particularly in Silverado Canyon, which is still recovering from a fire in 2014. Extra emergency crews have been brought in to help, including a bulldozer operator and two additional swift-water rescue teams.

“The ground still remains pretty saturated and … it can be problematic,” said Capt. Alan Wilkes of the Orange County Fire Authority.

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Cliff collapses in Santa Barbara County; residents evacuated

The collapsed cliff was reported in the 6600 block of Del Playa Drive in Isla Vista.
(Handout / Dave Zaniboni, Santa Barbara County Fire Department)

A cliff and a patio collapsed into the ocean Sunday afternoon in Isla Vista as a powerful rainstorm walloped California’s coast.

The collapse forced officials to evacuate 15 to 20 residents of oceanfront apartment units, according to Gina DePinto, a spokeswoman for Santa Barbara County.

Fire officials received the call about 5 p.m. No injuries were reported, and the American Red Cross was expected to help displaced residents find shelter.

Building inspectors were dispatched to assess the stability of the cliff as well as the homes and buildings around the bluff, DePinto said.

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Storms generate 34-foot wave, a new record for Central California coast

The latest storms to hit California have broken records.

According to the National Weather Service, monster surf on Saturday set a new wave height record for the Monterey Bay: 34.12 feet.

The previous record was 32.8 feet, set in 2008.

High surf was also reported across the Central Coast and north of San Francisco.

The powerful surf smashed the remains of a famed concrete ship, the S.S. Palo Alto, in the Monterey Bay town of Aptos.

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Long Beach sets all-time rainfall record; widespread flooding across Southern California

A powerful storm dumped record-breaking rainfall in parts of Southern California, flooding freeways and numerous surface streets.

Southern Los Angeles County was particularly hard hit, with dozens of streets flooded from the Palos Verdes Peninsula through Long Beach and into Orange County.

The National Weather Service said Long Beach Airport set an all-time rain record at 3.87 inches. Other parts of Southern California, including LAX, set new records for the day.

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Wind gusts top 80 mph

Heavy winds and rain pushed trees onto roadways.

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2 rescued from rising floodwaters in Wilmington

Los Angeles Fire Department personnel rescued two people stranded by floodwater Sunday in Wilmington at Pacific Coast Highway and Pine Creek Lane.

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Dramatic scenes in Malibu hills

The Malibu area was hit hard by the storm. Topanga Canyon Road was closed, and mudslides and debris were reported on other roads in the Santa Monica Mountains.

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Sepulveda Tunnel at LAX closed, causing airport traffic woes

The Sepulveda Tunnel, a key route in and out of Los Angeles International Airport, was closed by flooding until further notice.

Officials urged motorists to use other routes.

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Mudflows intensify in Duarte burn area

One of the biggest concerns for this flood is mudflow in areas burned by recent wildfires.

A hillside community in Duarte was hit by mudflows during Friday’s storm and is being hit again on Sunday.

Several areas in Santa Clarita, Orange County and Santa Barbara have been evacuated due to risk from mudflows.

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Rains bring a Disneyland miracle: small crowds, short lines

At Disneyland, heavy rains poured as a flash flood warning was issued as the sparse number of guests hid under the monorail.

Some guests were clearly unprepared for the rain — wearing jeans, sneakers and hoodies, with some even without an umbrella — while some parents came with rain gear and covered strollers in clear, waterproof plastic.

Some rides were not operational. But the visitors who did come enjoyed short lines — less than half an hour for Hyperspace Mountain, compared with lines that typically can last for two hours. Lines for Space Mountain lasted only 10 minutes.

And selling briskly were light saber umbrellas that glowed, despite a hefty price tag of $65.

A big seller: $10 ponchos.

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Freeways and roads inundated by water; flash flood warnings issued

The 110 Freeway near the Carson Street exit on Sunday afternoon.
(Christina House / For The Times)

Numerous roads around Southern California have been flooded by sustained bursts of intense rain. The 710 Freeway flooded near Pacific Coast Highway, and the 110 Freeway experienced high water near Torrance. Several surface streets were also blocked by standing water and fallen trees.

The National Weather Service issued flash flood warnings for the South Bay, the L.A. Harbor area, Long Beach, Anaheim and Santa Ana through 4:30 p.m.

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A warning about the L.A. River during the rain

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Works on Twitter is reminding people to stay away from flood control channels, such as the L.A. River, during rain storms.

Because this is what it looks like in Universal City:

And the county offers information about road closures here.

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The latest from the National Weather Service in L.A.

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Watch the water start to rise in Sespe Creek

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Morning conditions: Heavy rains and reports of spinouts on Southern California roads

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Storm expected to pick up intensity as the day progresses

(National Weather Service)

Rain is expected to pick up intensity early Sunday before transforming into a heavy storm from about 11 a.m. to 4 pm., according to meteorologists with the National Weather Service.

During the heaviest period of rain on Sunday, coastal areas are expected to see up to an inch of rain, the San Fernando Valley up to 1½ inches, the San Gabriel Mountains up to 2¼ inches, and downtown Los Angeles up to 1⅓ inches.

It looks like it’s shaping up to be the strongest storm of the season

Carol Smith, of the National Weather Service

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Heavy rain topples massive tree in Northridge

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Laurel Canyon closed ‘until further notice’ after mudslide

(Los Angeles Department of Transportation)

Laurel Canyon Boulevard will remain closed “until further notice” after a mudslide shut down the roadway between Sunset Boulevard and Mulholland Drive, city officials said.

There are closures at:

  • Sunset Boulevard and Laurel Canyon Boulevard
  • Hollywood Boulevard and Laurel Canyon Boulevard
  • Kirkwood Drive and Laurel Canyon Boulevard
  • Mount Olympus Drive and Laurel Canyon Boulevard
  • Mulholland Drive and Laurel Canyon Boulevard

Residents are being allowed to access their homes, but officials advised commuters to use freeways as alternate routes. The area is completely closed to trucks over 6,000 pounds.

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Flood advisory expires

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Find out which roads are closed around L.A. County

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National Weather Service issues flash flood warning for Duarte, other burn areas

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The scene at Lake Tahoe’s Heavenly ski resort

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It’s been a wet year in Northern California

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Drought relief: A year of California drought levels

Some of the greatest improvement in California’s recovery from a multiyear drought has occurred in just this past week, according to the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor report. Nearly 35% of the state, concentrated in Northern California, is currently free of drought conditions. A year ago, no part of the state was drought free.

The state’s most severely drought-stricken areas, concentrated in Southern California, shrank from 43% a year ago to 2% as of this week.

See maps of every week of California’s multiyear drought here.

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Tree falls on Metro train in Pasadena, causing 20-minute delays

A tree fell on a southbound Metro train in Pasadena on Thursday morning, delaying the commute for 20 minutes.

Metro officials said the downed tree was caused by recent rains and stormy weather. Passengers were removed from the train while Metro crews worked to set up buses to transport the morning commuters.

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Watch the showers moving into Ventura County

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Laurel Canyon remains closed

Laurel Canyon Blvd. remained closed in both directions Thursday morning, after a 9,000-pound slab of concrete from a foundation came tumbling on to the road.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The LAPD advised taking alternative routes and planning for extra time on the road after a mudslide caused a closure on Laurel Canyon Boulevard between Sunset Boulevard and Mulholland Drive.

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Is the drought coming to an end? Yes. Or at least maybe

Snow-covered mountains rise above Crowley Lake in the eastern Sierra Nevada.
Snow-covered mountains rise above Crowley Lake in the eastern Sierra Nevada.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

The state’s biggest reservoirs are swelling. The Sierra Nevada have seen as much snow, sleet, hail and rain as during the wettest years on record. Rainy Los Angeles feels more like London than Southern California.

So is the great California drought finally calling it quits?

Yes. Or at least maybe. If the storm systems keep coming, state and regional water managers say, 2017 could be the end of a dry spell that has, for more than five years, caused crops to wither, reservoirs to run dry and homeowners to rip out their lawns and plant cactus.

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What’s the difference between a debris flow and a landslide?

Animated infographic shows how debris flows and deep-seated landslides happen

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What today’s storm system looks like from above

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U.S. Drought Monitor: Well over 30% of the state is no longer in a drought

A week of powerful storms in Northern California has significantly eased the state’s water shortage, with a large swath of the state emerging from drought conditions, officials said Thursday.

The numbers underscore what officials have been saying for several months about the drought. As a series of storms have hit Northern California this winter, the drought picture there is easing, but is still more of a factor in Southern California and the Central Valley.

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Evacuations in Marin County after creek overflows banks

People were briefly evacuated late Tuesday from homes and businesses in the North Bay town of San Anselmo after a nearby creek overflowed its banks, authorities said.

The Corte Madera Creek rose about one foot over its flood stage in Ross Valley, according to the Marin County Sheriff’s Office. Police in San Anselmo said the creek reached about 8 inches above the flood stage.

Flood sirens blared in San Anselmo, Fairfax and Ross Valley, located about 20 miles north of San Francisco, and officials asked residents to seek higher ground.

Roads in downtown San Anselmo were shut down, but just before 9 p.m., officials lifted the evacuation order.

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Man found dead in car submerged in Novato creek

A 20-year-old man was found dead Monday inside an overturned car submerged in a creek in Novato, authorities said.

The Marin County Sheriff’s Office said investigators think severe weather conditions, speed and a lack of tire tread on the car could have resulted in the solo crash.

The crash was reported about 8:35 a.m. after a resident found the overturned vehicle in the creek in the 5000 block of Novato Boulevard.

When authorities arrived, they found Jose Enrique Hernandez dead in the Nissan Altima, according to a sheriff’s office statement.

Authorities believe he died overnight, possibly after leaving work on Sunday night. He was last seen driving alone, the sheriff’s office said.

An autopsy will be performed later this week.

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Rain, wind and snow trigger avalanche warning

An avalanche closed Alpine Meadows Road Tuesday afternoon, according to the Sierra Avalanche Center. At least 12 homes were affected by the avalanche.

Authorities are knocking on doors to ensure the homes are empty, the center said. The houses were not damaged by the avalanche and no one was injured.

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‘Life-threatening blizzard conditions’ in the eastern Sierra Nevada

High winds and blizzard conditions prompted travel warnings and road closures in the eastern Sierra Nevada on Tuesday as a second powerful storm moved through Northern California.

The National Weather Service warned that the atmospheric river storm will generate high winds and heavy snow through at least Wednesday.

“Bottom line: Do not travel in the eastern Sierra,” the Weather Service’s Reno office wrote in a forecast Tuesday morning. “Life threatening blizzard conditions are occurring in places and will continue through Wednesday morning. The next 24 hours will be very active to say the least...”

The Weather Service warned that wind gusts of up to 50 to 60 miles per hour “will create whiteout conditions along with heavy snow,” accumulating up to 10 feet of in higher elevations and several feet at lower altitude.

Mono County law enforcement officials reported visibility at only 10 feet in some areas, according to the Weather Service.

The storm triggered a number of wind and snow-related road closures.

That included a 115-mile stretch of U.S. Route 395 from Pearsonville north to Bishop closed due to high winds that were kicking up dust and limiting visibility.

That closure was lifted for passenger vehicles Tuesday morning, but high-profile vehicles were still prohibited from Pearsonville to Lone Pine, according to Florene Trainor, a Caltrans spokeswoman.

Authorities also closed U.S. 395, a key north-south transportation corridor, 1 mile north of State Route 203 near Mammoth Lakes to Bridgeport because of whiteout conditions, Trainor said.

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Storms have added 33.6 billion gallons of water to Lake Tahoe since Jan. 1

Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes as rivers overflowed their banks.

The series of storms over the last few weeks in the Sierra Nevada have been very good to Lake Tahoe.

According to the National Weather Service, the lake has gained about 33.6 billion gallons of water since Jan. 1 -- and the lake has risen about one foot.

It’s a big turn around from just a few years ago, when the drought had Lake Tahoe water levels reaching record lows.

After a lull Monday, more snow is on the way for the Sierra through Thursday.

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Wind gusts from California storms hit 159 mph; woman killed by falling tree

There was a lot of snow and rain during the last storm that moved through Northern California.

But the heavy winds were also a destructive factor.

In the East Bay, a woman was killed on a golf course in San Ramon when a tree fell on her.

And in Squaw Valley in the Sierra Nevada, wind gusts on Sunday hit 159 mph.

The storms over the weekend were relatively warm, meaning snows levels stay high. Some of the snow that did fall melted fairly quickly, creating raging rivers — and flooding — across the region.

But the next rounds of storms will be colder, meaning more of the snow will stick. That’s good news for the state’s water collection systems, which rely on snow remaining in the Sierra Nevada into the spring.

The colder storms bring with them the threat of blizzard and white-out conditions, as well as avalanches.

“It’s not over yet,” said Alex Hoon, a meteorologist in the National Weather Service’s Reno station.

The storm is expected to last until Thursday and will bring several feet of snow to lower altitudes, such as Lake Tahoe and Mammoth Mountain in Northern California, as well as cities in western Nevada and southern Oregon.

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Yosemite Valley to reopen Tuesday

If conditions permit, Yosemite Valley will reopen to visitors at Yosemite National Park Tuesday morning following a weekend storm that saw the Merced River flood, park officials said.

The tourist-popular Yosemite Valley was closed Friday evening before a massive storm that dumped feet of snow in the Sierra Nevada and inches of rain in mountain and foothill communities Saturday and Sunday.

Other sections of the park remained open throughout the storm, park officials said.

The Merced River reached flood stage Sunday but was lowering Monday as rains statewide tapered off. Another storm, this one colder, is expected to sweep across the region Tuesday through Thursday.

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Here’s what flooding conditions look like in California