NATIONAL NEWS

Saturated California gets more rain and snow but so far escapes severe damage it saw only weeks ago

Feb 20, 2024, 10:27 AM | Updated: 7:56 pm

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Much of saturated California faced the threat of flooding Tuesday with winter storms blowing through, but so far the state has escaped the severity of damage from mudslides, wind and rain spawned by an atmospheric river only weeks ago.

While the rainfall was focused on Southern California, thunderstorms and strong winds were reported across wide swaths of the state, and mountain snow fell in the north. Some flood watches and warnings were expected to remain in effect into Wednesday.

Heavy downpours flooded streets and sidewalks in San Francisco, and mudslides closed roads to the north and south of the city. The heaviest rain came through the Los Angeles area Tuesday, with an additional 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 centimeters) on top of the 2 to 5 inches (5 to 12.7 centimeters) that fell in recent days, said Bob Oravec, lead forecaster with the National Weather Service in Maryland.

“It’s heavy but not quite as heavy as previously,” he said. “But it’s been a wet month across southern California. The ground is saturated, so any additional rain can bring the chance of flash flooding.”

The LA area has received around 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rain so far this month, with parts of the coastline and mountain areas farther north receiving more than 1 foot (30.5 centimeters) of precipitation, Oravec said.

The upside, he said, is there’s some light at the end of the tunnel: The region isn’t expected to see more rain at least until the following weekend.

Jim Callahan, who owns a hardware store in Los Angeles, said last year’s rains were perhaps more trying for residents because they weren’t as prepared for the challenges as they were this year.

Sandbags sold out at his Mid-Wilshire neighborhood store about a week ago, he said. Sump pumps, tarps and roof patches have been flying off the shelves as residents grapple with leaks and floods in their homes.

“It’s not the worst I’ve seen, but it’s certainly the most all in one time,” Callahan said of the rains. “Here in Los Angeles we’re spoiled. We don’t have any season except for sun so when we get a little bit of rain, people act a little crazy. But we’ll take the rain over snow any day of the week.”

At Workboots 4 U, a shop about 3 miles (5 kilometers) south of Callahan’s shop, store manager Ed Diaz said business has been brisk with construction workers and others seeking waterproof boots.

The 31-year-old Los Angeles resident said the rains have also snarled his workday commute: His truck’s engine broke down in floodwaters, and he’s been forced to take the bus to work downtown in recent days.

“It’s a pain,” he said. “It feels like the rain has been getting crazier these last couple of years. People are adjusting and learning to deal with it, but it’s not easy on everyone.”

Bel Air, about 12 miles (19 kilometers) northwest of downtown Los Angeles, recorded 4.3 inches (11 centimeters) of rain over a three-day period ending Tuesday.

Tuesday’s rains forced Disneyland to shorten its hours while nearby Knott’s Berry Farm and SeaWorld in San Diego closed outright.

A flood prone stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway was closed south of Los Angeles, and mudslides.

The National Weather Service also warned any brave souls venturing to the shoreline to stay far back from the crashing ocean waves.

Northwest of Los Angeles, the Santa Barbara Airport reopened a day after heavy rains flooded the runways, according to a statement on its website.

Santa Barbara County sheriff’s officials said Tuesday that an 86-year-old man was found dead in a creek a day after he was reported missing when his truck was stuck in rising waters near Goleta. The cause of death was under investigation, KSBY-TV reported.

Ethan Ragsdale, a spokesperson for the Santa Barbara Police Department, implored residents to stay away from creeks and other normally tame water bodies even after the rains subside.

“They’re absolutely dangerous,” he said.

Mountain areas of Santa Barbara County received around 11 inches (28 centimeters) of rain over three days, the weather service reported.

The wet, wintry weather hit the state only weeks after a powerful atmospheric river parked itself over Southern California, turning roads into rivers, causing hundreds of landslides and killing at least nine people.

This week’s storm already has led to several rescues on swollen rivers and creeks on Monday. Crews helped three people out of the rising Salinas River in Paso Robles while a camper trapped in a tree was rescued along a creek in El Dorado Hills, northeast of Sacramento.

Federal authorities have also approved disaster assistance for residents of San Diego County.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said Sunday that assistance from the disaster declaration will help with recovery efforts following severe storms that hit the Southern California region in late January, damaging more than 800 homes and leading to at least three deaths.

The aid can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-interest loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs for individuals and business owners, the agency said.

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Marcelo reported from New York.

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Saturated California gets more rain and snow but so far escapes severe damage it saw only weeks ago