Drenched: How L.A. went from bone-dry to 216% of normal rainfall in four months

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According to the latest maps, Southern California is still in a drought.

But the dry conditions that have mired the region for more than five years have definitely shifted — at least for now.

Sunday’s huge storm — which dumped nearly 4 inches of rain in some areas — is part of a wetter trend that began in the fall. Since Oct. 1, downtown L.A. has received more than 13 inches of rain -- 216% of normal for this period, which the National Weather Service said was 6.26 inches.

It’s a remarkable turnaround.

A series of storms that drenched the Southland over the weekend left debris and clean-up in places like Seal Beac, Long Beach Malibu and Pasadena.


Over the summer, the National Weather Service announced that the past five years were the driest ever in downtown L.A. since official record keeping began almost 140 years ago. Precipitation during those five years totaled just 38.79 inches — roughly half of normal.

Forecasters had predicted a wet 2016 fueled by El Niño, but the big storms never materialized.

Until recently, officials were seeing a divergence in the state. Storms in Northern California were quickly easing the drought. But the drought persisted in Southern California.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, swaths of Northern California are now out of drought due to pounding storms that replenished the Sierra snowpack and filled reservoirs.

Since Oct. 1, total precipitation in the Sierra Nevada has been soaring at rates similar to the wettest winters in the modern record: 1982-83 in the northern and central Sierra and 1968-69 in the southern Sierra.


As of last week, Lake Shasta, the state’s largest reservoir and a major source of water for San Joaquin Valley agriculture, is 82% full and releasing water to create more storage room. Oroville, which supplies the State Water Project, is 77% full and also making releases.

A vast swath of Southern and Central California — from Orange County to Tulare County — remains mired in “extreme” drought conditions, according to federal officials.

Officials have warned California’s water shortage is expected to continue for some time, especially in the south, which relies on Sierra snowpack but also other sources for its water.

The big question is how long will these wet conditions continued in the Southland.

Sunday’s storm was one for the record books, flooding streets and freeways and dumping more than 3 inches of rain in numerous communities from Long Beach through Garden Grove and Yorba Linda.

Long Beach got more than 4 inches, setting an all-time record. Redondo Beach got 3.44 inches.

“It’s not a normal event. It was definitely a culmination of the perfect circumstances: We had a very intense atmospheric river with a lot of moisture and an area of lift in the atmosphere right over coastal Los Angeles and Orange counties. It forced all of that moisture out,” said Brett Albright, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s office in San Diego.


Thunderstorms and flash flooding were possible throughout the region on Monday before clearing begins.


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9:29 a.m.: This post was updated with new rain totals from the National Weather Service.

This post was originally published at 8:15 a.m.