Los Angeles

Rain, Colder Temperatures Return With Friday Storm

Downtown Los Angeles already has exceeded its annual rainfall total with the season far from over

A storm forecast to douse Southern California Friday moved across Ventura County overnight, but showers are expected to hold off for the morning drive in most of the region.

The rain should arrive in Los Angeles County before noon. Between a quarter and a half-inch of rain is expected in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, with up to 1.5 inch forecast for Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.

"It's not a really strong storm with heavy rainfall, so we're not too concerned about flooding," said NBC4 forecaster Crystal Egger.

There could be minor debris flows in areas previously stripped of vegetation by wildfires, flooding in low-lying areas and rockfalls in canyons, but those developments are likeliest in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.

Thanks to a wet winter, downtown Los Angeles already has exceeded its annual rainfall total with the season far from over. The winter storms are part of a an atmospheric river phenomenon that carries moisture across the Pacific Ocean from Hawaii and dumps it on Northern California.

To the north, which has reeled this week from fierce downpours and gusty winds, the rain began tapering off Thursday. Dry weather could develop by Saturday and continue along with a warming trend through the middle of next week.

The consistent rain and snowfall has reduced severe drought in California to just 11 percent of the state, a region northwest of Los Angeles, according to Thursdays U.S. Drought Monitor report. That figure was at 82 percent one year ago.

The series of storms has left its mark, however, in other ways.

In hard-hit coastal mountains near Santa Cruz, a dump truck driver accidentally ran over two highway workers -- killing one -- as the men worked Thursday to clear one of several slides of mud and rock pouring onto Highway 17, the California Highway Patrol said.

In Central California, a car plunged into a flooded creek near Bakersfield. Kern County authorities rescued a woman who was clinging to tree branches in the swollen creek but a man in his 20s died when the car submerged upside down.

Thursday's storm whipped the Golden Gate Bridge with wind gusts near 60 mph and brought nearly an inch of rain to parts of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Northern California already has received more than a year's worth of rain and snow from an unending series of storms, with two months left to go in the winter rainy season.

Several homes were inundated with mud earlier in the week.

In the Marin County community of Fairfax, Maggie Bridges scooped up her 4-year-old son and climbed barefoot out of the bathroom window as a rain-soaked hillside gave way on Wednesday, her husband said.

Residents along Sonoma County's Russian River stacked up sandbags and retreated to the second floor of buildings. Lynn Crescione, owner of Creekside Inn & Resort in Guerneville, said many long since had raised their buildings on stilts for days like Thursday.

"We've been here 35 years, and we've risen most of our buildings over time. When it rains we just go upstairs," Crescione said.

Around Northern California, state workers opened flood gates to release some of the water building up in reservoirs and rivers. State engineers discovered new damage to the spillway of Lake Oroville's dam -- the state's second-largest reservoir and the tallest dam in the United States -- but said there was no immediate danger to the dam itself or to the public.

On Wednesday, chunks of concrete went flying from the water surging down the spillway, creating a 200-foot-long, 30-foot-deep hole that grew Thursday.

Engineers don't know what caused what state Department of Water Resources spokesman Eric See called a "massive" cave-in that is expected to keep growing until it reaches bedrock.

With little choice, the department on Thursday again ramped up the outflow from Lake Oroville over the damaged spillway to try to keep up with the torrential rainfall flowing into the reservoir from the Sierra foothills

As for temperatures during Friday's storm, expect cool conditions. Temperatures reached above-normal levels in the mid-70s Thursday but will be 10 degrees or more cooler, though they will remain in the 60s.

Also forecast is high surf along the coast. A high surf advisory will be in effect from 4 a.m. until 4 p.m. Saturday in L.A. and Ventura counties.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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