Los Angeles

Winter Storm Lashes Southern California With Wind, Downpours

The storm follows a series of systems that knocked out drought in large swaths of California, but left many areas in danger of landslides and flooding

What to Know

  • The brunt of the storm is expected Friday afternoon
  • Rainfall records are likely across the region
  • The system is expected to move out late Saturday

Wind-driven rain lashed Southern California Friday as a powerful Pacific winter storm hammered the region, delaying flights and forcing evacuations and road closures due to potential mudslides and flooding, and led to the deaths of two people.

The storm feeding on an atmospheric river of moisture stretching far out into the ocean was at its most fierce late Friday afternoon, dropping over 8 inches of rain in one area, and was expected to last until Saturday afternoon.

"This will likely go down in the record books as one of the wettest February days ever," said NBC4 meteorologist Crystal Egger.

With high winds and driving rain felling trees and power lines, leading to localized flooding and prompting evacuation orders for residents of about 200 hillside-area residents in Duarte.

Duarte officials initially ordered evacuations for about 180 homes near the Fish Fire burn area, but that number jumped to 202 by Friday morning as officials re-evaluated the potential impact of a storm expected to bring afternoon downpours of roughly an inch per hour.

A flash flood warning was issued for the Fish and Sand fire burns areas in Los Angeles County early Friday afternoon. Flooding is possible in Sylmar, Duarte, Azusa, Monrovia and nearby communities.

In Ventura County, a flash flood warning was issued for the Solimar and Camarillo Springs burn areas around midday. Communities in the warning area include Oxnard, Ventura, Fillmore, Camarillo, Ojai, Santa Paula and La Conchita, site of a fatal slide in 2005.

A flash flood warning was issued for Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties through 9 p.m.

Around 2 to 4 inches of rain are expected in the coast and the valleys. Flash flood watches are in effect through Saturday morning.

Some communities could see a month's worth of rain in one day. Normally, downtown Los Angeles would have received 8.96 inches of rain by this time of the year in the season that runs from October to April, but it already has had 16.25 inches.

Later Friday evening, there will be residual showers around the region.

The steady rainfall brings concerns about landslides in the region's burn areas, particularly in the San Gabriel Valley and mountains east of Los Angeles, due to unstable soil.

A flash flood watch will be in effect through Saturday morning. Widespread roadway flooding is also possible, along with flooding in creeks and small streams, and rock and mudslides, especially near canyon roadways.

Officials with the city of Duarte declared a "red alert" for residences in the Fish Fire burn area. The alert means mandatory evacuations went into effect at 7 a.m. Friday. An evacuation center was established at the City Hall Community Center, 1600 Huntington Drive.

Evacuations also are possible due to mudslide concerns in Glendora and Azusa beneath the Colby Fire burn area. Azusa officials have been distributing sandbags to residents at the City Yard, 809 N. Angeleno Ave.

Los Angeles County Public Works crews, meanwhile, worked frantically to clear debris from catch basins and storm drains in hopes of preventing flooding. Residents can report problems such as flooding, mudslides or fallen trees by calling 311 or visiting the website

In the mountains, heavy snow is expected at higher elevations, along with gusty, damaging 70-mile-per-hour gusts. The snow level will vary from as low as 6,000 early Friday to 8,000 feet Friday night, then fall back to 6,000 feet. A winter storm warning will be in force in the San Gabriel mountains from Friday morning through Saturday morning.

Between 1 and 2 feet of snow are possible above 8,000 feet and between 6 and 12 inches above 6,000 feet.

Due to the intense rain expected to fall Friday and Saturday, the National Park Service will be closing a series of parking lots in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. In the Malibu area, parking lots will be closed Friday at Solstice Canyon and the Zuma Canyon trailhead at Zuma/Trancas Canyons. In the Agoura Hills area, lots will be closed at Paramount Ranch, Cheeseboro/Palo Comado Canyon, Rocky Oaks and the overflow lot at Peter Strauss Ranch.

NPS officials said they would evaluate the condition of the lots throughout the day Saturday to determine if they can be reopened.

The steady stream of storms have knocked out drought conditions across Northern California. Last year at this time, 95 percent of California was in drought. That figure was at 24 percent Thursday, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor report.

In Northern California, officials monitoring the stricken Oroville Dam on the Feather River said Thursday that they were confident the reservoir would handle any runoff from expected storms because ongoing releases have been lowering the lake's level since its spillways were damaged last week.

The Sacramento weather office said models were trending stronger for a system arriving Sunday night and Monday in the northern part of the state due to a tap of deep moisture over the Eastern Pacific that could bring 24 to 30 hours of moderate to heavy precipitation.

Rainfall predictions in that region's foothills and mountains ranged from 3 inches to 10 inches.

Up the West Coast, after a week of snow and heavy rains, landslides were covering roads in Washington state. Commuter trains into Seattle were canceled Thursday due to slides, and Spokane County declared a state of emergency due to flooding and washed out roadways.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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