Storms lift water restrictions in Southern California by 7 million
LOS ANGELES (AP) — California’s 11th atmospheric river abruptly left the storm-drenched state on Wednesday, causing flooded roads, landslides and downed trees in the southern part of the state, as well as drought-ending rainfall that marked the end of water restrictions for nearly 7 million people.
A A das to 1001000 ca 1 ]no itself originally at itself into with, 27,000 people are still under evacuation order statewide, the decision by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MCWAD) was a relief to amid a historic drought in the state.
The district supplies water to 19 million people in six counties. The council imposed restrictions that included limiting outdoor watering to one day a week in parts of Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino last year during a severe public water shortage.
But weather concerns remained Wednesday, as 61,000 more people remained under evacuation warnings and more than 650 people were in emergency shelters, according to the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.
Meanwhile, in Arizona, the city of Sedona urged people in dozens of districts to evacuate immediately Wednesday evening due to predicted flooding in Oak Creek. Stormy water flooded a roadway near a mobile home park, and forecasters said it could rise to 15 feet (4.6 meters), a foot above flood stage.
In Southern California, flooding also closed several miles of the Pacific Coast Highway through Huntington Beach, south of Los Angeles on the Orange County coast, and potholes disabled more than 30 cars on one Southern California freeway. More than 144,000 utility customers statewide were without power Wednesday afternoon, according to poweroutage.us.
Some Southern California beaches were closed as heavy rain overwhelmed sewage systems and sent thousands of gallons of sewage into the sea.
In Los Angeles, a man clinging to a concrete wall in the raging, rain-swollen Los Angeles River was saved from being swept away when a fire rescuer, hanging from a helicopter, reached him and he was brought to safety.
Gov. Gavin Newsom surveyed the flood damage in the agricultural region of the Central Coast, noting that the 12th atmospheric river could hit California next week. Officials have yet to determine the extent of the winter storm’s damage, both structural and financial.
“Look back, the last few years in this state have been fire to ice with no warm bath in between,” the Democrat said, describing the “weather whiplash” in a state that quickly went from severe drought and forest fires to heavy snow and rain.
“If anyone has any doubts about Mother Nature and her fury, if anyone has any doubts about what it’s like in terms of what’s happening with the climate and the changes we’re going through, come to California,” the governor said.
The latest atmospheric river in California was one of two storm systems to sweep across the US this week. Parts of New England and New York were excavated from a midnight Easter Wednesday that caused tens of thousands of power outages, numerous school cancellations and whiteout conditions on the roads.
The remaining rain is expected to taper off in southern California by Wednesday evening as the storm moves toward parts of the Great Basin. The weather service said California will see light rainfall this weekend and another strong storm next week.
Three clifftop homes were evacuated Wednesday morning when the ground slid from their backyards in coastal San Clemente, the Orange County Fire Department said. Residents were also evicted from a nearby building when they learned the severity of the landslide.
Orange County already declared a local state of emergency when a similar slope collapsed in Newport Beach on March 3, leaving a home uninhabitable and putting others at risk.
The National Weather Service said downtown Los Angeles has recorded just under two feet (61 centimeters) of rain this water year, making it the 14th wettest in more than 140 years of records.
An overnight landslide on a road in the Baldwin Hills area of Los Angeles County trapped two vehicles. This is reported by KNBC-TV. Another hillside in the neighborhood also gave way, threatening the foundation of the house on top of the hill.
Weather in the northern and central parts of the state worsened earlier after heavy rain and strong winds on Tuesday blew out windows at a San Francisco high-rise and reached gusts of up to 74 mph (119 kph) at the city’s airport.
A state of emergency is in effect in 43 of the state’s 58 counties due to the storms.
Although the rains are ending in California, flood warnings remain in effect for the central coast of the Salinas and Pajara rivers in Monterey County and other rivers in the Central Valley as water drains from land that has been saturated by storms since late December.
The runoff of a powerful atmospheric river last week breached a dam on the Pahara River, start evacuation when water flooded farmland and farming communities. Nearly half of the people who were ordered to evacuate were in Monterey County. Closed sections of Pacific Coast Highway in the area are expected to reopen Wednesday evening.
The first phase of repairs to the 400-foot-long (120-meter) levee breach was completed Tuesday afternoon, and crews were working to raise the section to its full height, county officials said.
Damage continued to occur in other areas of the state. In the Sequoia National Forest, Alta Sierra Ski Resort said it would be closed for at least two weeks due to severe flooding and infrastructure damage, citing the US Forest Service. The highway serving the resort also has “tremendous slide potential,” the resort tweeted.
California experienced a deep drought before an unexpected series of atmospheric rivers poured into the state from late December to mid-January, causing flooding while building a stunning snowpack in the Sierra Nevada.
Storms caused by arctic air followed in February blizzard conditions that buried mountain communities under so much snow that structures began to collapse.
According to the state Department of Water Resources, the water content of the Sierra snowpack is more than 200% of the average value on April 1, when it usually reaches its peak.
Michael McNutt, a spokesman for the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, said the end of restrictions in Southern California is good news, but cautioned people to continue to conserve water even in non-drought years.
“We all know the next drought is just around the corner,” he said Wednesday. “We should treat the water that comes out of our taps as liquid gold.”
The district is almost entirely dependent on the state water supply and has taken aggressive conservation measures, including installing devices that drastically limit the flow of water into homes hundreds of people – including celebrities – who have been found to be wasting water.
That program is now suspended, as are district lawn watering restrictions.