Environment & Science

El Niño rain: Tail-end of storms, high surf hits California

Rain falls over Pasadena on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2015. A series of storms is expected to dump up to six inches of rain on the Southland this week.
Rain falls over Pasadena on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2015. A series of storms is expected to dump up to six inches of rain on the Southland this week.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

The tail-end of a series of El Niño-driven storms is bringing scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms to Southern California along with pounding surf and serious winds.

Forecasters predict significantly less rain Thursday than has pounded the state all week but warn that flash flooding is still possible into the afternoon, Associated Press reported.

Snow continues to fall in mountain areas and motorists are warned of icy conditions above 4,000 feet, including along the heavily traveled Grapevine section of Interstate 5 north of Los Angeles.

National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory for Los Angeles and Ventura County mountains through noon Thursday. 

Rim of the World Unified School District near Lake Arrowhead is closed again Thursday due to snow.   

The National Weather Service issued a high surf warning for Thursday night with minor coastal flooding Thursday morning for L.A., Orange and Ventura Counties. 

National Weather Service meteorologist Curt Kaplan says waves of 8 to 12 feet are likely, with maximum sets of 16 feet, according to AP. 

Big waves at high tide Thursday overtopped the breakwater in Los Angeles County's Redondo Beach and encroached on residential beaches in Malibu. No major damage was reported.

NBC4 shared video of waves slamming into the Malibu coast. 


A high surf warning for Ventura County issued by the National Weather Service remains in effect until 4 a.m. Friday. 

Ventura County Fire Department Captain Keith Helm said that the swells are currently between six and 10 feet along the coast of Ventura County from Rincon to Malibu. 

He said that the areas most likely to be directly affected are the Ventura Pier and the coastal housing on Solimar Beach. 

"We are being cautious in that area and just kind of keeping an eye on it,” Helm said.

In terms of entering the water, Helm said that it is well known among most surfers that it is not wise to enter the water 72 hours after a storm.  

Helm said that there were no swift water rescues in Ventura County during the actual storm, but he did say that it is  likely for people to get knocked down by waves when they are trying to catch a glimpse of the high tides. 

“We just want people to take extra care when they are close to the ocean, close to the rocks, maybe stay off the jetties when there is high surf,” Helm said. “We advise the citizens to stay far enough away from the water, if they don’t intend to get in the water, or they don’t have the experience to get in the water.” 

The L.A. County Department of Public Health issued an Ocean Water Quality Rain Advisory for all L.A. County Beaches until 8:30 a.m. Friday. The Department of Health recommends beach goers avoid contact with the ocean for three days after significant rain due to bacteria and contaminants flowing into the water. 

California will begin drying out on Friday before another round of light rain moves in over the weekend, according to AP.

Officials in Pasadena are warning residents to be prepared after two homes suffered mudslide damage from this week’s storms.


“The concern is going to be the oversaturation during the next couple storms that we are anticipating,” Pasadena Fire Spokeswoman Lisa Derderian told KPCC. “We’ve seen over 1000 sandbags within 24 hours picked up at our two fire stations. So people are thinking preparedness but they’re waiting until the rain has started to get the sand and sandbags.”

Derderian encouraged residents to get emergency kits and evacuation plans ready if necessary.

“What we don’t want to see is what I call the “blue tarp syndrome” where we see a lot of tarps covering homes because they are experiencing leaky roofs. 

Rain and snow totals

Well over 2 inches of rain fell on several mountain areas Wednesday, including 3.5 inches at the San Gabriel Dam in the Angeles National Forest. 

LA County Public Works shared that they've captured 2.9 billion gallons of water since Tuesday. 


The National Weather Service is reporting preliminary rain and snowfall totals for California as the week's El Nino-stoked storms start to wind down.

Downtown Los Angeles tallied more than 2.5 inches of rain since Sunday, leaving the drought-stricken city barely more than an inch below normal since the start of the water-year on Oct. 1.

East of Los Angeles, the Mountain High ski area in the San Gabriel Mountains received 20 to 28 inches of snow.

The San Francisco Bay Area received 2.62 inches of rain over three days, while some Lake Tahoe-area ski resorts in the Sierra Nevada reported more than 2 feet of snow since Monday.

The National Park Service says a rock slide Thursday closed a main route to Yosemite.


This post has been updated.