Flash flooding forces evacuations in southern California

 Flooding and mud flows in Lake Elsinore, California (near the Holy Fire burn scar area) on February 14, 2019.  (Photo: @KNXBaird on Twitter)
Flooding and mud flows in Lake Elsinore, California (near the Holy Fire burn scar area) on February 14, 2019. (Photo: @KNXBaird on Twitter)

The San Francisco Bay Area was the target of flooding and wind damage on Wednesday as a strong Pacific storm barreled its way onto shore. The Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa (ICAO code: STS) got 3.86 inches, while downtown San Francisco measured nearly 2.5 inches. It was the rainiest February 13 for both locations since 2000. The San Francisco International Airport (ICAO code: SFO) received a deluge of 1.55 inches, but this wasn’t a record.

Roads were closed left and right, while large trees crushed cars and homes, knocking down power lines in the process and leaving tens of thousands of customers without electricity. However, power has been restored to many people. The Bay Area is drying out a bit now, but Mother Nature hasn’t been showing much love on this Valentine’s Day, shifting her energy southward.

Parts of the Los Angeles and San Diego metro areas, as well as other areas of Southern California, have been getting thoroughly soaked today, with dangerous, fast-moving flood waters in places like Laguna Beach and Palm Springs. One car was nearly submerged near Fairmont Park in San Diego. There was a water rescue in Cabazon, just west of Palm Springs, where two people were trapped on top of a car. Roads were washed out in many places. Adding insult to injury, winds have been snapping trees and power poles across the region. Destructive gusts of 50 to 70 mph are possible through Friday from Wrightwood to Big Bear, and from Palomar to Mount Laguna.

Some of the biggest two-day rain totals as of 11:00 a.m. Pacific Standard Time (PST) today have been 6.5 to 9.5 inches in the mountains east of San Diego. Accumulations in the high elevations east of Los Angeles have been topping five inches. Many valley locations for both cities have been reporting two to five inches.

Heavy rain is forecast through this evening, and Flash Flood Warnings issued by the National Weather Service (NWS) don’t expire for the following areas until late this afternoon or early evening, PST:

• Riverside County (Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Thermal), including sections of I-10
• San Diego County (El Cajon, Escondido, Mission Valley, Oceanside, San Diego city limits)
• San Bernardino County (Yucca Valley)

Even after the rain fades, minor to moderate flooding is expected through tonight along portions of the Mojave, San Diego and Santa Margarita Rivers.

Downpours have also caused flash flooding over the Holy Fire burn scar area, and the Santa Ana mountains have received three to six inches of rainfall. Evacuation orders, voluntary and mandatory, were announced by the Riverside County Department of Emergency Management ahead of the storm, and debris flows have been reported in the Lake Elsinore area.

Law enforcement and emergency management officials are urging everyone to obey “Road Closed” signs and any other barricades in flooded areas. Moving through high water, whether you’re walking or driving, could cost you your life. According to U.S. National Hazard data, flooding, on average, was the second-leading cause of weather-related deaths in the country from 1988-2017; and around half of those deaths occurred in vehicles. So, please be careful out there!

Show More

Nick Austin, Director of Weather Analytics and Senior Meteorologist

In his 17 years of weather forecasting experience, Nick worked on air at WBBJ-TV and WRCB-TV, including time spent doing weather analysis and field reporting. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from Georgia Institute of Technology. Nick is also a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” for eight consecutive years. Nick earned his National Weather Association Broadcasting Seal in 2005.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *