USA – Deadly Storm Dumps 250mm of Rain in Southern California, Warnings for North

Southern California was hit with one of the strongest storms in years on Friday 17 February 2017, bringing  heavy winds and torrential rain which triggered flooding and mudslides.

Meanwhile central and northern parts of the state California have been warned of further “excessive rainfall” over the coming days increasing the risk of flooding. Northern California has already seen high levels of rainfall and some flooding this year.

Southern California

Gusts of 87mph (140km/h) were reported on the Big Sur scenic coastal highway. Flights at Los Angeles international airport were cancelled or delayed. Santa Barbara airport was closed for the first time since 1998.

Amtrak cancelled services for much of California’s southern and central coast and dozens of roads were closed by flooding. About 150,000 households in the Los Angeles area were without electricity.

At least 5 people died in the storm, with two of the deaths a result of flooding. One man was found dead in his vehicle in Victorville, in the Victor Valley of southwestern San Bernardino County, after several cars were swept along a street by flood water.

In Thousand Oaks, Ventura County, a man was swept away by swift-moving waters. Rescuers found his body on Saturday, 18 February, Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said

Another victim was electrocuted in the Sherman Oaks area of Los Angeles when a tree falling in heavy rain downed power lines that hit a car.

Local media also reported two traffic deaths on Interstate-15 in San Diego amid heavy rain.

Burn areas were susceptible to flash flooding and mudslides. Mandatory evacuation orders were issued after mudslides in Duarte in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains east of Los Angeles. A threat of mudslides also prompted voluntary evacuation orders for parts of Camarillo, Ventura County.

Rainfall in Southern California

According to figures from NWS Los Angeles, some areas saw over 10 inches of rain fall between 16 and 18 February.

NWS figures for rainfall in Southern California, 16 to 18 February 2017:

LA County

  • Monte Nido – 5.04 inches / 128.02 mm
  • Malibu Canyon – 4.92 inches/ 124.97 mm
  • Agoura Hills – 6.13 inches/ 155.70 mm
  • Canoga Park – 5.2 inches/ 132.08 mm
  • Opids Camp – 6.46 inches/ 164.08 mm
  • Camp Hi Hill – 6.23 inches/ 158.24 mm

Ventura County

  • Silverstrand Beach – 5.4 inches/ 137.16 mm
  • Oxnard Civic Center – 5.09 inches/ 129.29 mm
  • Sulphur Mountain – 8.51 inches/ 216.15 mm
  • Red Mountain – 7.88 inches/ 200.15 mm
  • Canada Larga 7.8 inches / 198.12 mm
  • Westlake Village – 6.72 inches / 170.69 mm
  • Circle X Ranch – 6.32 inches / 160.53 mm
  • Old Man Mountain – 10.13 inches / 257.30 mm
  • Upper Matilija Cyn – 10 inches / 254.00 mm
  • Matilija Cyn – 9.18 inches / 233.17 mm

Santa Barbara

  • Los Prietos – 7.1 inches / 180.34 mm
  • Juncal Dam – 6.85 inches / 173.99 mm
  • Ktyd Tower – 9.33 inches / 236.98 mm
  • Maria Ygnacio Ridge – 7.54 inches / 191.52 mm
  • El Deseo – 10.47 inches / 265.94 mm
  • San Marcos Pass – 9.91 inches / 251.71 mm

Several rainfall records were broken during the storm, particularly during 17 February, according to NWS, including record rainfall of 4.16 inches at Santa Barbara airport, breaking the old record of 2.08 inches set in 1980, and record rainfall of 1.98 inches at Santa Maria Airport, breaking the old record of 0.88 inch set in 1918.

Northern California

National Weather Service is warning of further heavy rain in Northern California over the next few days, increasing the risk of flooding.

Rainfall warnings, Northern California, 20 February 2017. Image: NWS Sacramento

Northern parts of the state have already seen high levels of rain fall this year. Ten days ago over 180,000 people were ordered to evacuate their homes after erosion at the emergency spillway at Lake Oroville threatened to flood towns and communities downstream, including Oroville and other towns in Yuba, Sutter and Butte counties.

Ground is already saturated as can be seen from this photo by California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, taken west of Sacramento.

I-80 just west of Sacramento looking southward. Photo: Cal OES

Social Media – Southern California Storm, February 2017