Flooding, landslides as atmospheric river leaves California

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Southern California residents are weary of a storm-soaked winter were hit Wednesday by parting shots from the season’s 11th atmospheric riverwhich flooded roadways, caused landslides and toppled trees throughout the state.

Water pooled on roadways, rocks and mud littered others, and there were reports of potholes that disabled numerous cars. Flooding closed several miles of Pacific Coast Highway through Huntington Beach, south of Los Angeles on the Orange County coast.

Three clifftop apartment buildings were evacuated when the earth slid away from their backyards in coastal San Clemente, the Orange County Fire Authority said. Residents were also cleared out of a nearby building as the severity of the slide was studied.

Orange County had already declared a local emergency when a similar hillside collapsed on March 3 in Newport Beach, leaving a house uninhabitable and endangering others.

Statewide, more than 143,000 utility customers remained without power Wednesday afternoon, according to poweroutage.us.

Gov. Gavin Newsom surveyed flood damage in an agricultural region on the central coast, noting that California could potentially see a 12th atmospheric river next week.

“Look back — last few years in this state, it’s been fire to ice with no warm bath in between,” the Democrat said, describing “weather whiplash” in a state that has quickly gone from extreme drought and wildfires to overwhelming snow and rain.

“If anyone has any doubt about Mother Nature and her fury, if anyone has any doubt about what this is all about in terms of what’s happening to the climate and the changes that we are experiencing, come to California,” the governor said.

California’s latest atmospheric river was one of two storm systems that bookended the US this week. Parts of New England and New York were digging out of a nor’easter Wednesday that caused tens of thousands of power outages, numerous school cancellations and whiteout conditions on the roads.

Remaining showers across Southern California were expected to decrease through Wednesday evening as the storm headed towards parts of the Great Basin. The weather service said California will see minor precipitation this weekend, followed by another substantial storm next week.

For downtown Los Angeles, the National Weather Service said just under two feet of rain (61 centimeters) has been recorded so far this water year — making this the 14th wettest in more than 140 years of records.

An overnight mudslide onto a road in the Baldwin Hills area of ​​Los Angeles County trapped two cars, KNBC-TV reported. Another hillside in the neighborhood also gave way, threatening the foundation of a hilltop home.

Statewide, about 27,000 people remained under evacuation orders and more than 61,000 were under warnings to be ready to evacuate due to weather impacts, according to the California Office of Emergency Services. Emergency shelters housed 676 people Tuesday night.

Weather in the northern and central sections of the state had dried out earlier, following Tuesday’s heavy rain and fierce winds that blew out windows on a San Francisco high-rise and gusted to 74 mph (119 kph) at the city’s airport.

The governor issued emergency declarations for three more counties on Tuesday, raising the total to 43 of the state’s 58 counties.

Despite California’s rains winding down, flood warnings remain in effect on the central coast for the Salinas and Pajaro rivers in Monterey County and other rivers in the Central Valley as water runs off land that has been saturated by storms since late December.

Runoff from a powerful atmospheric river last week burst a levee on the Pajaro River, triggering evacuations as water flooded farmland and agricultural communities. Nearly half of the people under evacuation orders were in Monterey County.

The first phase of repairs on the 400-foot (120-meter) levee breach was completed Tuesday afternoon and crews were working to raise the section to full height, county officials said.

Damage continued to emerge elsewhere in the state. In the Sequoia National Forest, the Alta Sierra Ski Resort said it would be closed for at least two weeks because of extensive flooding and infrastructure damage, citing the US Forest Service. There is also “massive slide potential” on the highway serving the resort, the resort tweeted.

California was deep in drought before an unexpected series of atmospheric rivers barreled into the state from late December through mid-January, causing flooding while building a staggering snowpack in the Sierra Nevada.

Storms powered by arctic air followed in February, creating blizzard conditions that buried mountain communities under so much snow that structures started collapsing.

The water content of the Sierra snowpack is now more than 200% of the April 1 average, when it normally peaks, according to the state Department of Water Resources.

Hollywood stars splashed down a rain-soaked red carpet in Los Angeles at Tuesday’s premiere of “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” where rainfall totals are double the normal average.

The film’s stars — including Zachary Levi, Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu and Rachel Zegler — tiptoed over the saturated rug as they unsuccessfully tried to stay dry.

“My feet are wet,” said Zegler. “I’m a little bit bummed, I’m not gonna lie.”


AP Photojournalist Krysta Fauria contributed to this report.

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