NATIONAL NEWS

Record-setting storm that killed 3 dumps rain on Los Angeles; flash flood alerts still in effect

Feb 4, 2024, 10:32 PM | Updated: Feb 5, 2024, 7:42 pm

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A storm of historic proportions dumped a record amount of rain over parts of Los Angeles on Monday, sending mud and boulders down hillsides dotted with multimillion-dollar homes while people living in homeless encampments in many parts of the city scrambled for safety.

About 710,000 people statewide were without power Monday evening.

The storm was the second one fueled by an atmospheric river to hit the state over the span of days.

Virtually all of Southern California was under flash flood advisories and watches, including the Los Angeles area, where between 5 and 10 inches (12.7 to 25.4 centimeters) of rain had fallen and more was expected, according to the National Weather Service. At the downtown measuring station, 6.7 inches of rain had fallen by Monday afternoon, nearly half the yearly average of 14.25 inches. It was already the third-wettest two-day period since 1877, the service said.

So far officials have attributed three deaths to the storm that first hit Northern California. Crews rescued people from swift-moving water in various parts of Southern California on Monday, including 16 people and five cats in Los Angeles County alone, authorities said.

Also rescued were two homeless people who spent the night on a small island in the Santa Ana River in San Bernardino, about 55 miles (88.51 kilometers) east of Los Angeles, authorities said.

“They were cold and exhausted from a night out stranded on this little patch of dirt that was in the middle of the river,” said Capt. Nathan Lopez of the San Bernardino County Fire Department. A dog and two cats were also saved.

At a news conference, authorities said rain would taper off in intensity on Tuesday, but the threat of flooding remained high.

“The ground is extremely saturated, supersaturated,” said Ariel Cohen, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service bureau in Los Angeles. “It’s not able to hold any additional water before sliding. It’s not going to take much rain for additional landslides, mudslides, rockslides and other debris flows to occur.”

Near the Hollywood Hills, floodwaters carried mud, rocks and household objects downhill through Studio City, damaging at least two homes, city officials said. Sixteen people were evacuated.

“It looks like a river that’s been here for years,” said Keki Mingus, whose neighbors’ homes were damaged. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The Los Angeles Fire Department said 1,000 firefighters were contending with 49 debris flows, 130 reports of flooding, half a dozen structure fires and several rescues of motorists stranded in vehicles.

Drake Livingston who lives in the Beverly Crest neighborhood, was watching a movie around midnight when a friend alerted him to flooding.

“We looked outside and there’s a foot-and-a-half of running water, and it starts seeping through the doors,” said Livingston, whose car was found submerged in several feet of mud in the morning.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass urged residents to avoid driving, warning of fallen trees and electrical lines on flooded roadways.

Shelters were adding beds for the city’s homeless population of nearly 75,000 people.

Tony Sanz spent the night in a city park before seeking higher ground around dawn as floodwaters were rising around his tent.

“Boy did it rain last night,” he said Monday afternoon hunkered down in a tent layered with tarps on a sidewalk outside a supermarket. He spied the cloudy skies during a break in the downpours and wondered, “Is that it? I hope that’s it.”

Not yet, according to forecasters.

The weather service predicts up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) of rainfall across Southern California’s coastal and valley areas, with 14 inches (35 centimeters) possible in the foothills and mountains over the next two days.

Authorities also reported several spills Monday, including the discharge of about 5 million gallons of raw sewage in the Rancho Dominguez area surrounding Compton. Most of the untreated sewage went into a channel leading to the Pacific Ocean and the city closed a 7-mile (11.27-kilometers) stretch of Long Beach to recreational swimming,

Earlier in the day, commuters stepped through several inches of floodwater as they rushed to catch trains at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles.

Most Los Angeles public schools remained open, but some districts were closed. The weather also prompted the closure of Knott’s Berry Farm, Six Flags Magic Mountain and SeaWorld San Diego theme parks and a rare early closure of Disneyland.

Over the weekend, the storm inundated streets and brought down trees and prompted water rescues in the San Francisco Bay area.

Among those who died were two men killed by fallen trees Sunday in Carmichael, a suburb of Sacramento, and in Boulder Creek in Santa Cruz County. Police were investigating the death of another man in Yuba City, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco, who was found under a redwood tree in his backyard Sunday.

Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for most of coastal Southern California, while emergency shelters were opened.

Off the coast of Long Beach, 19 people were rescued Sunday after the 40-foot sailboat they were traveling in lost its mast amid gale-force winds, said Brian Fisk of the Long Beach Fire Department.

Heavy snow was falling throughout the Sierra Nevada and motorists were urged to avoid mountain roads.

Much of the state was still drying out from the initial atmospheric river-powered storm that blew in last week. Atmospheric rivers are relatively narrow plumes of moisture that form over an ocean and can produce torrential amounts of rain as they move over land.

Both atmospheric rivers were called a “Pineapple Express” because they originated near Hawaii.

Since last winter, 46 atmospheric rivers have made landfall on the U.S. West Coast, pulling the state out of a yearslong drought, according to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes. Nine were categorized as strong, two were extreme and one was exceptional.

___

Watson reported from San Diego, Michael R. Blood and Eugene Garcia reported from Los Angeles and Amy Taxin in Orange County contributed to this report.

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