JOHN ANTCZAK / Associated Press
Another storm pushed into California on Wednesday as the state cleaned up from a powerful weather system that coated mountains with much-needed snow and set rainfall records in the drought-stricken state.
The new storm was expected to impact Northern California with widespread rain, gusty winds and snowfall in coastal mountains and the Sierra Nevada, where the snowpack normally supplies about 30% of the state’s water needs.
The latest tempest followed on the heels of a multiday atmospheric river — a long plume of moisture from the Pacific Ocean that delivered remarkable rainfall, including more than 11 inches (28 centimeters) over 72 hours at Mount Tamalpais, north of San Francisco.
By Tuesday afternoon, 8.1 inches (20 centimeters) of rain had fallen in one area of the central coast’s Santa Barbara County. Downtown Los Angeles got 2.16 inches (5.4 centimeters), more than doubling the date’s old record set in 1888.
More than 4.6 inches (11.8 centimeters) fell within 24 hours in Orange County’s Silverado Canyon, south of LA, where sheriff’s deputies rescued residents after mud inundated homes in the area scarred by wildfires. No injuries were reported.
Firefighters searched the surging Los Angeles River on Tuesday after discovering two submerged vehicles wedged against a bridge pillar south of downtown LA and learning that a third vehicle had been swept past the bridge. No victims, if any, were immediately located and firefighters were waiting for the water level to fall.
“The circumstances surrounding these three separate vehicles and their journey down the LA River remain unclear,” a Fire Department statement said.
Earlier, a man was rescued after being swept into a covered stream channel in the San Fernando Valley. The man called for help on his cellphone and firefighters reached him through a maintenance hole on the street above. He suffered bruises and hypothermia, fire officials said.
The storm prompted officials to shut down a 40-mile (64-kilometer) stretch of the iconic Highway 1 in the Big Sur area to repair damage and clean up rocks in lanes. The coastal route south of the San Francisco Bay Area got more than a foot (30 centimeters) of rain in 24 hours. It frequently experiences damage during wet weather.
The storm began over the weekend in Northern California and brought heavy precipitation as far inland as Nevada, where more than 6 feet (1.8 meters) of snow fell at the Mt. Rose ski resort just southwest of Reno. Avalanche warnings were in effect in the Mono and Inyo county areas of California’s eastern Sierra.
Residents near the Alisal Fire burn scar in Santa Barbara County were ordered to evacuate over concerns that heavy rains might cause flooding and debris flows. The order was lifted Tuesday afternoon.
Similar orders were issued for people living near burn scars in the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles, where rockslides were reported. A mountain route into the resort town of Big Bear was closed until Wednesday morning while crews cleared several feet of mud and debris.
It was too soon to know how much of a dent the rain would make in the state’s drought. The system built on the progress of a massive rain storm in October, particularly in Northern California, said Michael Anderson, the state climatologist. Heavy rains moistened the ground, which will ensure more water stays packed in the snow, he said.
Last year, the mountain snow lost a lot of moisture into the ground because it was so dry, he said.
December, January and February are typically the wettest months of the year in California; about half of the state’s annual precipitation falls in that window, he said. If storms don’t continue through the winter, the effect of this storm on the drought will be “muted,” Anderson said.
Any moisture is much-needed in the broader region that’s been gripped by drought that scientists have said is caused by climate change. The latest U.S. drought monitor shows parts of Montana, Oregon, California, Nevada, and Utah are classified as being in exceptional drought, which is the worst category.
Associated Press writers Christopher Weber and Robert Jablon in Los Angeles; Terence Chea in Oakland, California; Janie Har in San Francisco; Kathleen Ronayne in Sacramento, California; and Scott Sonner in Reno, Nevada contributed to this report.