The first rain of the year swept into the Los Angeles area Monday and while the weather brought the usual concerns, it posed additional danger for areas burned in the recent wildfires.

According to The National Weather Service, rainfall in coastal areas could be up to 4 inches by the end of Tuesday with mountain regions receiving up to 7 inches. The rainfall triggered flash flood warnings for parts of Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.

The forecast calls for rain and possibly thunderstorms through Tuesday evening. Winds could top out at about 20 mph before the weather subsides Wednesday.

While Santa Monica isn’t known for severe flooding problems, officials said some residents do request aid during significant rain, including flood prevention tips.

“It’s not uncommon to get a handful of people knocking on our doors asking for sandbags,” said Santa Monica Fire Department Captain Patrick Nulty. “They’re predicting a pretty significant rain event so that is something that could be beneficial.”

He said the city has a sandbag program. Fire stations keep a cache of sandbags and the city keeps a sand pile at memorial park. Any resident can pick up sandbags (up to 5) for free at any fire station

“It’s just enough to be able to fill the bags with sand and secure a doorway,” he said. “It’s just enough if you have problems with standing water.”

Malibu also offered sand backs from its local fire stations with a limit of 25 empty bags or 10 filled bags per person. The threat of wind, floods and mudslides also caused Malibu to activate its winter storm plan.

Malibu’s Public Works Department pre-staged vehicles around the city and drainage culverts were cleared to prevent flooding on the PCH.

“I’d like to remind motorists to be cautious on the roads during the storm, since we’ll have slick roads, less visibility, and possible debris and flooding. Road crews will be out doing maintenance work to keep it safe for us,” said Malibu Mayor Skylar Peak. “Residents should make sure their gutters and drains are cleared, monitor the local news, and watch for alerts from the City and other agencies.”

The Santa Monica Police Department said there were no reports of significant weather related calls but they did urge basic safety precautions for driving on wet roads.

I would recommend drivers use extra caution, slow down, turn on your lights during the day time and give yourself more space to react to traffic,” said Lieutenant Saul Rodriguez. “Pedestrians and bicyclist should use additional caution as visibility can be lowered in the rain.”

In areas recently burned, officials warned the rain could cause its own set of problems.

The storm coming in from the Gulf of Alaska could dump up to 4 inches of rain on Northern California areas still recovering from fires before clearing up by Tuesday evening, National Weather Service meteorologist Steve Anderson said.

“Everything is soaking into the ground at this time, but if it gets very heavy, it could trigger a flash flood warning,” Anderson said.

The storm moved in to the San Francisco Bay Area early Monday, snarling traffic during the morning commute and causing several crashes.

Officials in the city of Santa Rosa, one of the areas hit hardest by the October wildfires, said crews are standing by in case they are needed.

The National Weather Service also issued a winter weather advisory for portions of the Sierra Nevada above 7,000 feet (2,134 meters), forecasting about 4 to 7 inches of snow and up to 1 to 2 feet on higher peaks Tuesday. It says travelers should prepare for difficult travel conditions, including gusty winds, low visibility and slick and snow-covered roads.

In Southern California, residents of the hillside communities of Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria who evacuated flames and smoke in December were ordered to leave again because rain could wash dirt and debris into neighborhoods.

The wet and windy system moving ashore could soak much of the state and drop several inches in parts of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, where the Thomas fire has burned for more than a month and left hillsides bare. About an inch of rain is forecast for downtown Los Angeles, the most in nearly a year.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Matthew Hall

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...