Potentially the biggest storm in 12 years moved into Southern California Friday, bringing heavy rain and high winds, prompting evacuations, blocking roads, downing trees and knocking out power. More than 100,000 LADWP and SoCal Edison customers lost power.
Flooding closed Interstate 5 south of State Route 170, according to the California Highway Patrol, causing backup for miles and jamming surface streets. The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch across much of the region, including all of Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties, including offshore islands, and all recent burn areas. The flood watch will remain in effect through Saturday morning.
A more serious flash flood warning was issued for the Sand Fire and Fish Fire burn areas in L.A. County. Rainfall rates exceeding a half inch per hour raised the threat of flooding, mud and debris flows in those areas. The National Weather Service urged residents to take immediate precautions to protect themselves and their property.
The storm has prompted rescues and injuries from flooding and toppled trees. A man was killed after a power line fell in Van Nuys, according to the LAPD. It happened at Sepulveda Boulevard and Weddington Street. Police said it appeared a tree branch fell on a power line, according to ABC7, with the man, 55, possibly being touched by the line or electrified water.
Los Angeles firefighters say they rescued three people from the Sepulveda basin area of the L.A. River, including one with non-life threatening injuries, along with five other people who were dry but stranded. In Sun Valley, 10 vehicles were stuck due to flooding, with eight people rescued by the LAFD.
Meanwhile, a 75-foot tree fell onto an apartment building near UCLA, narrowly missing someone who was in bed, according to the Associated Press. Authorities say four of the six apartments have been declared unsafe to enter, and 16 college students have been evacuated.
Authorities say hundreds of trees and power lines have been downed, according to the AP. In one case, a tree fell and took down power lines, landing on a vehicle in Sherman Oaks, according to the L.A. Fire Department. One person there suffered an electrical shock and was taken to the hospital, where they were pronounced dead. The department responded to 150 calls related to downed power lines between 12 p.m. and 4 p.m.
There were 333 flights impacted at the Los Angeles International Airport as of around 3 p.m. Friday, including delays to 84 departures and 29 outgoing cancellations, as well as 186 arrivals being delayed and 34 arriving flights cancelled. Ground delays at LAX were averaging two hours, according to FAA.gov.
Southwest and American Airlines cancelled nearly all flights due to the rain. They are the primary carriers for Bob Hope Airport in Burbank and John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana. At these airports, all but a handful of flights were cancelled. There were fewer cancellations or delays at Ontario Airport, which is further inland — only a few United flights to and from San Francisco were grounded.
Along with traffic delays, Metrolink trains were also delayed due to the weather. One of the longest delays was an hour, according to Metrolink's Twitter account.
Wind whipped through the Santa Clarita Valley, with gusts of 50 mph to 80 mph, according to the L.A. County Sheriff's Department. The wind knocked down multiple power lines in Newhall and Canyon Country near Newhall Avenue, Walnut Street, Deeptree Avenue, Apple Street and Canerwell Street, the sheriff's department said in a statement.
The storm has the potential to drop more rain in one 24-hour period than the region has seen since 2004, according to weather experts.
Light rain began Friday morning but intensified by mid-day. By Saturday, forecasters said rainfall totals could reach 4 and 5 inches at the coast and inland valleys and between 5 and 10 inches in the mountains and foothills.
"Our mountains and foothills in particular are just going to get dumped on," said Kathy Hoxsie, meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "Because right at the point where we connect with that strong moisture, we get that good southwest, south to southwest flow ... as that air mask comes through our area. Those mountains are all oriented perfectly to help squeeze out, very effectively, the moisture."
Hoxsie also told KPCC the last time Southern California saw this much rain in a single day was on Dec. 28, 2004.
Last year Los Angeles received just under 7 inches of rain. This year L.A. has already accumulated 16 inches. Annual precipitation totals do not follow the calendar year. Meteorologists measure rainfall from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30.
Snowfall is expected as low as 7,000 feet on Friday, according to the NWS. By Saturday morning it could reach between 5,000 and 5,500 Saturday morning.
A total of around 7 million gallons of rain had been gathered by late Friday afternoon, L.A. County Public Works spokesperson Steven Frasher told KPCC — enough to supply 720 residents with water for a full year.
Most debris flows had been cleared as of late Friday afternoon, with most flows actually having been water rather than debris, according to Frasher. The rain proved helpful for replenishing groundwater sources, Frasher said.
School closures were put in place in the Ojai Unified School District, St. Bonaventure High School in Ventura and Valley View Elementary School in Duarte.
Fire agencies across Southern California bulked up staff in anticipation of the storm’s heaviest rainfall, including additional fire dozers, firefighters and swift water rescue teams.
The Los Angeles County Fire Department added 100 extra personnel to their roster, in addition to the eight water rescue teams scattered throughout the county. The department’s Gustavo Medina told KCC the teams are placed in areas including Malibu, Santa Clarita, Palmdale and Lakewood. Resources have also been deployed near the Sand Fire burn area in Newhall.
“Because we’ve been in a drought the past five years, we haven’t really had to implement [extra staff] regarding mud and debris deployment,” Medina said. “But this year, it’s a heavy rain season, so we’ve had to implement this type of staffing during the past month or two.”
Fire officials in Orange County have also recognized this storm may be more impactful than the one in January, prompting them to augment their staff.
Larry Kurtz with the Orange County Fire Authority told KPCC six water rescue teams are placed around the region, with specific attention to Seal Beach and Los Alamitos, which are always areas of concern during inclement weather.
They’ve also brought in additional staff for their dispatch center to field the expected high volume of calls. During the last storm, they received a record 702 calls for service over 24 hours.
Duarte has issued a mandatory evacuation order, known as a red alert, for the community within the impact area of the Fish Fire, which burned more than 4,000 acres over the summer and created conditions for mudslides. Effective 7 a.m. on Friday, residents of more than 200 homes were told to leave, officials said.
The city will open the Duarte Community Center at 1600 Huntington Drive for evacuees and will remain open until mandatory orders are lifted. Evacuated residents are encouraged to bring medicines and any other items they may need for a minimum 48-hour period, the city says on its website.
City officials have been coordinating with each other in case the main shelter at the community center fills up, according to Duarte City Manager Darrell George.
"We can probably accommodate I think between 40 and 50 people," George told KPCC. "So we've been coordinating with the Duarte Unified School District to use the whole high school gymnasium if need be."
Glendora issued a yellow alert Thursday. A yellow alert means residents should clear streets of parked cars, trash cans and other objects in case of flooding.
An evacuation warning has been issued from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office for areas burned in the 2016 Sherpa Fire, including El Capitan Canyon, El Capitan Ranch, El Capitan State Beach, Refugio State Beach, Refugio Canyon, Canada Venadito Canyon, del Coral and Las Flores Canyon.
Voluntary evacuation orders are also in place for Forest Falls, the place of a landslide on Thursday afternoon on Slide Canyon. The San Bernardino County Fire Department says four homes and a county fire station are in the slide area path. Forest Falls is located northeast of Yucaipa and north of the 10 freeway in San Bernardino County.
In Orange County, authorities issued a voluntary evacuation for residents living near the Silverado Canyon burn area — specifically homes east of 30311 Silverado Canyon Road. The county advised that the order could be upgraded to a mandatory evacuation as the storm progresses.
Power outages were felt around the greater Los Angeles area Friday afternoon. There were power lines down in a number of communities.
As of 5 p.m., there were about 56,000 SoCal Edison customers without power, according to the utility. As of 4 p.m., there were approximately 61,000 LADWP customers without power.
The neighborhoods with the most LADWP customers without power, according to LADWP, include:
- Del Rey: 8,000 customers without power
- Green Meadows: 6,400 customers without power
- Sherman Oaks: 3,300 customers without power
- Larchmont: 3,200 customers without power
- Canoga Park: 3,055 customers without power
Storm-related outages are often caused by downed trees, palm fronds and branches falling on equipment and making contact with power lines, which can result in extended outages, the utility said in a statement.
All northbound lanes of the 101 Freeway were closed at Seacliff in Santa Cruz County due to a closed drain on the freeway, with emergency service staff working to clear the drain before reopening those lanes.
In Duarte, the following road closures are in place:
- Royal Oaks and Greenbank
- Bettyhill and Conata
- Royal Oaks and Mel Canyon
- eastbound Fish Canyon at Mel Canyon
- westbound Fish Canyon at Mel Canyon
- Mountaincrest and Deerlane
- Brookridge and Tannencrest
- Sunnydale Drive and Westvale Road
- Royal Oaks between Bradbourne and Mt. Olive
Road closures have also been enacted around the Angeles National Forest, from Aliso Canyon Road to Angeles Crest Highway, according to the L.A. County Department of Public Works.
In the area of Santa Anita Canyon, Arno Drive to Chantry Flats is also closed.
In Agua Dulce, a stretch of Bouquet Canyon Road, 2 miles north Of Vasquez Canyon Road to 5.5 miles north of Vasquez Canyon Road, was closed Thursday in anticipation of the storm.
Also, in Santa Barbara County, Highway 154 is closed from Buellton to Santa Barbara.
In Santa Clarita, officials are asking residents in areas prone to flood to shelter in place. Specifically:
"Residents in Sand Canyon, Placerita Canyon, Iron Canyon and areas of Val Verde, Little Tujunga and Agua Dulce/Acton (Soledad Canyon Road, from the 11430 block in Agua Dulce to the 7000 block in Acton) should be aware that they may not have access in or out of their neighborhood during the storm which is expected to produce the heavy rains until 10 pm tonight," a Sheriff's Department advisory said.
Multiple intersections on Placerita Canyon were closed, including:
- Meadview Avenue
- Quigley Canyon
- Golden Oak Lane
- Choke Cherry Lane
- Oak Creek Avenue
Concerns about the rain have also led to the cancellation of several weekend events, like Pasadena's 35th annual Black History Parade at Charles White Park on Saturday. Horse racing at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia and Los Alamitos Race Course in Cypress has also been canceled.
The National Park Service is closing a series of parking lots in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area Friday. Parking lots are also closed at Solstice Canyon and Zuma Canyon trailhead at Zuma/Trancas Canyons. In Agoura Hills area, lots are closed at Paramount Ranch, Cheeseboro/Palo Comado Canyon, Rocky Oaks and the overflow lot at Peter Strauss Ranch, according to park officials.
The L.A. Homeless Services Authority is operating winter shelters through 7 a.m. Sunday. The extended hours apply to shelters in Highland Park, Pomona, Santa Clarita, Skid Row, West Los Angeles, South Los Angeles, Sylmar, Long Beach and Bell.
Knott's Berry Farm, meanwhile, announced via Twitter that it would be closed because of the rain.
Emergency crews are watching Southern California burn areas and spots around the region that are prone to flooding, mudslides and dangerous debris flows.
L.A. County Fire Department Inspector Gustavo Medina had this advice for people who live in those areas:
"If you see running water going down your street, please don't get into it because a lot of people don't know the power of water, and water that's even to ankle high can push someone down the stream."
Around the Southland, officials encouraged drivers to report anything they see that could block the roads – whether that's a downed tree or mudslides. You can report anything obstructing traffic by dialing 311 or to check out the My L.A. 311 website.
Driver aid can also come in the form of the Metro Freeway Service Patrol, who will be on duty until 7 p.m. Friday night. Commuters can call 511 and ask for “Motorist Aid” from their phones or call from a freeway callbox. Free services include, changing flat tires, jump-starting cars, towing and providing up to a gallon of fuel.
L.A. County issued a press release with these safety and preparation tips:
If you experience flash flooding, move to higher ground and/or the highest point in the house. Stay out of riverbeds and flood control channels during the storm. Water flow during storm is unpredictable and dangerous. Dial 9-1-1 if you see someone caught in a flood control channel.
In the event of thunderstorms, take shelter in a sturdy building. Avoid isolated sheds, garages or small structures in open areas. Avoid contact with electrical equipment or cords.
Follow evacuation orders issued by law enforcement agencies immediately – hesitating or not leaving may put you and your loved ones in life threatening danger.
Drive with your headlights on during rainy weather, and make sure your windshield wipers are working properly before rain starts.
Freeway flooding may happen – avoid driving in pooled water. Standing water is often deeper than it looks, and can conceal tire-damaging debris or make vehicles inoperable.
“Turn Around Don’t Drown.” Don’t attempt to cross swift moving water; as little as two feet of rushing water can sweep a vehicle away.
At home and in the community:
Power outages may happen – keep a working flashlight, and a battery operated radio handy.
Help keep your neighborhood flood safe by parking vehicles and placing trash containers away from catch basins.
Avoid parking on streets that may be vulnerable to mud and debris flows.
Report clogged drains, blocked roads or fallen trees in the unincorporated areas by calling the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works Dispatch at 1-800-675-HELP (4357).
Avoid beach areas. Storm surges may cause beach erosion and damaging high surf conditions with dangerous waves and rip currents to coastal areas.
Visit the Los Angeles County’s Storm Season website at http://www.lacounty.gov/LARain to view tips on how to prepare your home, where to pick-up sandbags, and how to register for Alert LA County so that emergency messages are sent to your mobile telephone or e-mail.
Los Angeles County residents, renters, and business owners, including persons with disabilities and others with access and functional needs, may call 211 LA County for emergency preparedness information, and other referral services. The toll-free 2-1-1 number is available 24 hours a day and seven days a week. 211 LA County services can also be accessed by visiting http://211la.org.
You can be a part of our storm coverage by sharing photos and video of the rain’s effect on your neighborhood. Text RAIN to 63735 to share with us and let us know what problems you might be seeing. You can also tag KPCC in photos on Twitter or Instagram.
This story has been updated.