Storm-struck California faces flood risk

Kite surfer Robert Rice hydrofoils off the Belmont Shore ahead of forecasted rain in Long Beach, Calif., on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024. The latest in a series of wet winter storms gained strength in California early Monday, with forecasters warning of possible flooding, hail, strong winds and even brief tornadoes as the system moves south over the next few days. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Kite surfer Robert Rice hydrofoils off the Belmont Shore ahead of forecasted rain in Long Beach, Calif., on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024. The latest in a series of wet winter storms gained strength in California early Monday, with forecasters warning of possible flooding, hail, strong winds and even brief tornadoes as the system moves south over the next few days. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

LOS ANGELES -- Much of saturated California faced the threat of flooding Tuesday with winter storms blowing through, but so far the state has escaped the severity of damage from mudslides, wind and rain spawned by an atmospheric river only weeks ago.

While the rainfall was focused on Southern California, thunderstorms and strong winds are expected across wide swaths of the state and intermittent mountain snow could hit in the north. Some flood watches and warnings were expected to remain in effect into today.

Heavy downpours inundated streets and sidewalks in San Francisco. The heaviest rain came through the Los Angeles area Tuesday, with an additional 1 to 2 inches on top of the 2 to 5 inches that fell in recent days, said Bob Oravec, lead forecaster with the National Weather Service in Maryland.

"It's heavy but not quite as heavy as previously," he said. "But it's been a wet month across southern California -- the ground is saturated, so any additional rain can bring the chance of flash flooding."

The Los Angeles area has received around ten inches of rain so far this month, with parts of the coastline and mountain areas farther north receiving more than a foot of precipitation, Oravec said.

The upside, he said, is there's some light at the end of the tunnel: the region isn't expected to see more rain at least until the following weekend.

Jim Callahan, who owns a hardware store in Los Angeles, said last year's rains were perhaps more trying for residents because they weren't as prepared for the challenges as they were this year.

Sandbags sold out at his Mid-Wilshire neighborhood store about a week ago, he said. Sump pumps, tarps and roof patches have been flying off the shelves as residents grapple with leaks and floods in their homes.

"It's not the worst I've seen, but it's certainly the most all in one time," Callahan said of the rains. His family has run Callahan Hardware since 1908.

"Here in Los Angeles we're spoiled. We don't have any season except for sun so when we get a little bit of rain, people act a little crazy. But we'll take the rain over snow any day of the week," he added.

At Workboots 4 U, a shop about three miles south from Callahan's shop, store manager Ed Diaz said business has been brisk with construction workers and others seeking waterproof boots.

The 31-year-old Los Angeles resident said the rains have also snarled his workday commute: his truck's engine broke down in floodwaters and he's been forced to take the bus to work downtown in recent days.

"It's a pain," he said. "It feels like the rain has been getting crazier these last couple of years. People are adjusting and learning to deal with it, but it's not easy on everyone."

Tuesday's rains forced Disneyland to shorten its hours while nearby Knott's Berry Farm and SeaWorld in San Diego closed outright.

A flood prone stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway was closed south of Los Angeles, and evacuation warnings were issued to the west due to possible mudslides.

The National Weather Service also warned any brave souls venturing to the shoreline to stay far back from the crashing ocean waves.

North of the city, the Santa Barbara Airport reopened a day after heavy rains flooded the runways, according to a statement on its website.

Ethan Ragsdale, a spokesperson for the Santa Barbara Police Department, implored residents to stay away from creeks and other normally tame bodies of water even after the rains subside.

"They're absolutely dangerous," he told The Associated Press. "There's swiftly moving water and what we don't want is to have somebody get injured or worse."

Santa Barbara County sheriff's officials said Tuesday that an 86-year-old man was found dead in a creek a day after he was reported missing a day earlier when his truck was stuck in rising waters near Goleta. The cause of death was under investigation, KSBY-TV reported.

The wet, wintry weather hit the state only weeks after a powerful atmospheric river parked itself over Southern California, turning roads into rivers, causing hundreds of landslides and killing at least nine people.

This week's storm already has led to several rescues on swollen rivers and creeks on Monday. Crews helped three people out of the rising Salinas River in Paso Robles while a camper trapped in a tree was rescued along a creek in El Dorado Hills, northeast of Sacramento.

Federal authorities have also approved disaster assistance for residents of San Diego County.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said Sunday that assistance from the disaster declaration will help with recovery efforts following severe storms that hit the Southern California region in late January, damaging more than 800 homes and leading to at least three deaths.

  photo  A woman walk under the rain in Los Angeles, Monday, Feb. 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
 
 
  photo  A shopping cart without wheels sits in the heavy rain in Los Angeles, Monday, Feb. 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
 
 
  photo  An apartment building roof is covered with a plastic tarp under heavy rain in Los Angeles, Monday, Feb. 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
 
 
  photo  People cross the street with umbrellas in heavy rain in Los Angeles, Monday, Feb. 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
 
 

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