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Storm floods southern California, aiming for the Gulf Coast this weekend

Major flooding near Sepulveda Basin in Encino, California on Thursday, December 6, 2018. (Photo: L.A. Daily News)

Downpours and thunderstorms pounded southern California for two days straight on Wednesday and Thursday, resulting in flooding and record rainfall from Los Angeles to San Diego. This region of the country has been in a drought all year, at times in the “Extreme” category according to the U.S. Drought Monitor archive maps. In most cases the rain would be welcomed. However, this storm, which followed another one from about a week ago, dropped too much rain at once.

A lot of the rain drenched the Holy Fire burn scar area in the Santa Ana Mountains. That fire spread across more than 23,000 acres from early August until mid-September of this year. Mud and debris flowed down the slopes in some of the same areas that got flooded late last month. Mandatory evacuations were ordered for some neighborhoods, but according to the California Department of Forestry and Protection (Cal Fire) all evacuation orders have been lifted as of this morning, Friday, December 7.

The streets of downtown Los Angeles and nearby beach communities were covered with several inches of dangerous standing and moving water. A daily record of 1.91 inches of rain fell at the University of Southern California (USC) campus on Thursday, breaking the previous record of 1.01 inches on December 6, 1997. Based on National Weather Service records, downtown Los Angeles averages 2.41 inches of rain for the entire month of December. Other parts of the city also received two to two and a half inches of total rain from the two-day storm.

The San Diego metro area also reported record rainfall totals from the storm, like 3.23 inches in University Heights. Many high elevations were absolutely doused with unusually high amounts of rain, with more than four and a half inches in some spots.

The storm has left southern California and the region will get a chance to dry out for at least the next several days, but sections of some roads across the state remain closed due to rock slides, mudslides, debris flow, or other storm damage. California road closures are available here.

Next in line for the heavy rain and flooding today is Texas. Tonight through Sunday the flood threat will spread eastward from Louisiana to southern Mississippi, southern Alabama, northern Florida, and southern Georgia. Widespread areas of four to six inches of rain are forecast, with pockets of eight inches where strong thunderstorms develop. Road closures are likely along the I-10 and I-20 corridors.

For people on the cold side of the storm this means snow and ice accumulations are possible later today through Saturday from around Lubbock, Texas to Oklahoma City to northern Arkansas. The ice and snow risks move to western North Carolina, as well as northwestern and northeastern Tennessee from Saturday night through Sunday. Details coming later today regarding the winter storm.

Flash Flood Watches, Winter Weather Advisories, Winter Storm Watches, and Winter Storm Warnings have been issued by the National Weather Service. Updates are available on this interactive map.

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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.
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