Widespread Flooding, Mudslides, Evacuations as Biggest Storm in Years Batters California
January 22, 2017
Southern California has been mired by a 5-year-drought. But this storm is part of a larger shift toward wetter conditions that began last fall.
The third in a series of powerful winter storms unleashed a deluge in Southern California on Sunday, flooding numerous roads and freeways, setting new rainfall records and stranding some in dangerously rising waters.
Forecasters had predicted this storm would be the strongest in several years, and it didn't disappoint. While earlier storms produced periods of heavy showers, this one delivered several hours of sustained pounding rain, with damaging results.
Coastal areas of Los Angeles County were among the hardest hit, with Long Beach Airport setting a new all-time rainfall record, 3.87 inches. The intense rain was too much for local roads. Sunday afternoon, both the 110 Freeway in Carson and the 710 Freeway in Long Beach were shutdown due to extreme flooding that left cars stranded like islands in a lake.
In Long Beach and surrounding communities, dozens of intersections were flooded and some residents reported their parked cars were damaged as the rainwater kept rising. Across the region, several people were rescued from their cars and thousands lost power.
Brett Albright, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s office in San Diego, said the storm dumped as much as four inches of rain in some places.
“Today was very intense,” said Albright. “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.”
“It’s not often we see higher rainfall totals on the coast than in the mountains,” he said.
Southern California has been mired by a 5-year-drought. But this storm is part of a larger shift toward wetter conditions that began last fall. Since October 1, downtown L.A. has received more than 13 inches of rain -- 216% of normal rainfall for this period, which the National Weather Service said was 6.26 inches.
Officials said much of the Southland remains in drought, although recent storms are helping.
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