Rainfall above average in coastal Orange County, flood watch issued ahead of Wednesday storm

An Orange County Fire Authority helicopter looks for a potential victim.
An Orange County Fire Authority helicopter looks for a possible victim that got swept into the Santa Ana River on Friday. The search was called off at around 2:30 p.m., after about four hours.
(Courtesy of the Orange County Fire Authority)

A series of rainstorms battered coastal Orange County over the holiday weekend, bringing the total to an estimated 2.7 inches of rain this month, with another inch or two to be expected between Wednesday and Thursday’s incoming showers.

According to data reported in Newport Beach, 1.17 inches of rain fell on Christmas Eve in addition to .33 of an inch reported on Christmas Day. The National Weather Service tracks data in select parts of Southern California through its San Diego station.

Meteorologist Elizabeth Schenk said the data from Newport Beach is indicative of coastal Orange County, adding that numbers in Laguna Beach closely mirror that of Newport’s.

This December is much wetter than the average, which Schenk said is typically around 1.36 inches of rain in Newport Beach.

Data taken from Anaheim and Santa Ana also reflected above average rainfall in December with Anaheim receiving 3.49 inches of rain and Santa Ana 4.93 inches. Those cities’ December averages are 2.01 and 1.74 inches, respectively.

“There’s a high pressure system that’s centered over the Pacific Ocean that is allowing for wide-scale troughing” (a term describing the direction of wind-travel for low pressure systems) across the West Coast that’s causing the rains,” Schenk said.

“The [weather] pattern may break down this weekend briefly to allow for drier and warmer weather, but we are keeping our eye out on another storm system potentially next week.”

Last week a flood watch was issued prior to the earlier storms. On Tuesday, a flood watch was again put into effect in coastal Orange County.

The storms over the holiday weekend resulted in a mudslide in Silverado Canyon and a rescue call for someone who was said to have been swept away in the Santa Ana River on Friday.

Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Thanh Nguyen said fire officials received a call from a passerby Friday who was out with their dog when they saw someone in the water near MacArthur Boulevard and the Santa Ana River Trail in Santa Ana.

“Because of the current that was moving, we had resources requested from MacArthur all the way down to Pacific Coast Highway,” Nguyen said.

“We were searching at every bridge and utilized the helicopter, our drone and the swift water rescue team from Victoria [Street] to north of Adams [Avenue].”

The search was called off after about four hours and no victim was found, according to Nguyen.

Rainfall for coastal Orange County is expected to be around 1½ to 2 inches over Wednesday and Thursday, with the heaviest expected to occur from Wednesday afternoon to Thursday morning, but the rains may linger as long as Friday morning.

In the mountains and toward the burn scars of the Bond, Apple and El Dorado burn scars, anywhere from 2 to 3 inches may fall, according to authorities.

Schenk said the rains this month won’t be enough to pull California out of its drought, though it will help considerably after a particularly dry December last year and an extremely dry summer and fall with high temperatures this year.

Much of California is still categorized by the U.S. Drought Monitor as being in extreme or exceptional drought.

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