Coastal Orange County braces for more rain, flooding and high surf

Sand bags are at the ready in the Act V Parking Lot at 1900 Laguna Canyon Road in case flooding occurs in downtown Laguna.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Forecasters advised residents of coastal Orange County to brace for heavy showers, flooding and high surf through Thursday as another storm sweeps across California.

As much as 1.5 inches of rain may come down near the beaches, National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Adams said. That’s less than the amount Orange County received during a bout of heavy precipitation on New Year’s Eve but still enough for meteorologists to issue a coastal flood advisory effective from 12 p.m. Thursday through 6 p.m. Friday.

Showers this week will continue to loosen exposed soil on hills charred by wildfires over the years but shouldn’t be strong enough to cause rapid mudslides, Adams said.

Hikers explore a partially flooded path near the Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center in Newport Beach.
Hikers explore the wild flora along a partially flooded dirt path near the Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center on Wednesday at Upper Newport Bay in Newport Beach.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Sandbags to help keep floodwaters out of people’s homes were available at the Edison Community Center, Warner Fire Station and Huntington Beach Corporate Yard. More were handed out at Costa Mesa City Hall, as well as the Act V and Aliso Beach East parking lots in Laguna Beach.

“Most of Laguna Beach is vulnerable to flooding and landslides, particularly during a storm like this with intense rainfall and high soil saturation,” Laguna Beach Fire Chief Nikko King wrote in a statement Wednesday.

He said additional Laguna Beach emergency response and public works staff are on duty to respond to any issues caused by flooding and heavy downpours. The fire chief also advised residents in low-lying areas to raise flood gates.

King added that there was little risk of homes near the area scorched by the Emerald fire last year getting swept away by debris flows due to the region’s topography, according to an analysis conducted by the California Geological Survey in February.

Caltrans has been preparing for the rainy season for months, and it has scheduled teams to patrol low-lying areas during the storm, said Angela Madison, a spokeswoman for the agency. Its Costa Mesa Road Crew was addressing clogged drains and potholes in the Emerald Bay area and along Pacific Coast Highway on Wednesday. No precautionary road closures had been planned as of Wednesday evening, but mobile traffic signs are on standby in case any arise.

Sand bags are at the ready in the Act V Parking Lot at 1900 Laguna Canyon Road.
Sand bags are at the ready in the Act V Parking Lot at 1900 Laguna Canyon Road in case flooding occurs in downtown Laguna Beach.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Swimmers, surfers advised to stay out of ocean

No beach or pier closures had been announced in Orange County as of Wednesday evening, but officials at the Orange County Health Agency recommended staying out of the ocean as runoff from drains raises the level of bacteria and contaminants in the water.

The storm will also generate rip currents and dangerous conditions for swimmers, prompting the NWS to issue a high surf advisory through Friday evening. But with waves as tall as 10 feet or higher potentially hitting Orange County this week, that advice may or may not be enough to keep the most determined surfers at home.

Extreme weather in Southern and Northern California this week has been driven by a current of moist air known as an “atmospheric river” that has swept across most of the state. This is the latest storm in what has been a notably wet start to the rainy season on the West Coast so far.

“Some monitoring stations have reported rainfall totals around 125% of what we’d expect by this time of year,” Adams said.

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