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Dangerous Flooding, Landslides and Damaging Winds Impacted California
The wet period that resulted in multiple potent atmospheric river events
that brought dangerous flooding, landslides and damaging winds to
California in mid-late February is coming to an end. A break from the
rain is expected in most areas late this week, before the next system
approaches the region this weekend.
Even though the heavy rain and mountain snow are tapering off in
California, impacts will linger. Flooding may still occur as runoff
brings water downstream. Some rivers may continue to swell.
Mud- and rockslides may still occur in areas with wet soil.
(MORE: Atmospheric Rivers: A Blessing and a Curse)
San Francisco International Airport has received 16.38 inches of rain
since Jan. 1, the fourth-highest combined January-February precipitation
total on record there, according to Dr. Phil Klotzbach.
The average yearly rainfall in Oakland is 20.81 inches, and this city
has now picked up 22.82 inches of rain since the rainy season began on
Below is a recap of the recent storms to hit the region since late last
For more details on impacts from this storm, see the link below.
(MORE: Latest California Storm News)
The first round of this latest Pacific storm parade soaked portions of
California on Thursday as a band of moisture moved southward through the
Up to one-half inch of rain fell in much of the Bay Area. Parts of Marin
and Napa Counties had picked up one-half to one inch of rain, while the
wettest locations in Sonoma County had already exceeded one inch of
rain. As of 4 p.m. PST Thursday, 0.37 inches of rain had fallen at San
Francisco International Airport.
This first teaser rainfall event also brought rain to southern
California. Much of the Santa Lucia Range received 0.20 to 0.40 inches
of rain on Thursday. Lower elevations including Santa Barbara, Oxnard
and Los Angeles received less than 0.05 inches.
A strong atmospheric river event set up in southern California, dumping
heavy rainfall on Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties.
Multiple roads were closed in Santa Maria late Friday morning, due to
flooding. Several reports of flash flooding, mudslides, urban flooding,
and debris flows came in from Southern California. Nearly 9 inches of
rain was dropped onto the mountains just north of Santa Barbara, while
in downtown Los Angeles rainfall totals came up just short of their
daily rainfall record.
The low may have also clinched the record for lowest pressure in the
month of February at San Francisco Airport, a record that was last set
These record low pressures caused winds to ramp up during the afternoon
Winds gusted across to over 50 mph across much of central and southern
California, knocking over many trees and power lines. Some gusts
exceeded 80 mph.
Selected Wind Gusts as on Friday, all in California:
108 mph was measured near Grapevine
84 mph was recorded in Burns Canyon
75 mph at Palomar Mountain Lookout
72 mph in Hesperia and San Clemente
67 mph in Laguna Beach
65-75 mph in San Bernardino and San Diego counties (widespread)
In San Diego and Orange Counties, a squall line developed on Friday
afternoon. Strong winds pushed over numerous trees. A wind gust was
reported on the Long Beach Pier.
Record daily rainfall was reported across southern California. Long
Beach, Santa Barbara, Sandberg, Santa Maria and Lancaster all received
more rainfall than any other February 17th. Most sites doubled or
tripled their old records. Death Valley recorded record rainfall on
Selected two-day rainfall totals in California:
Bolded values are locations where daily record rainfall occurred.
10.45 inches in El Deseo
9.95 inches at Old Man Mountain
9.91 inches at San Marcos Pass
9.87 inches at Upper Matilija Canyon
9.30 inches in Montecito Hills
7.68 inches at Red Mountain
7.02 inches in Los Prietos
6.57 inches in Westlake Village
6.22 inches in Opids Camp
5.50 inches at Crestline Ridge
4.84 inches at Malibu Canyon
4.84 inches in Canoga Park
4.52 inches in Oxnard
4.16 inches at Santa Barbara
3.98 inches in Rocky Butte
3.92 inches in Black Mountain
3.86 inches in Sandberg
2.94 inches in Laguna Hills
2.91 inches in Cambria
2.77 inches in Long Beach
2.74 inches in Pasadena
2.05 inches in Downtown Los Angeles
1.98 inches at Santa Maria Airport
1.12 inches at San Diego International Airport
1.05 inches in Downtown San Francisco
1.16 inches in Oakland
0.73 inches in Fresno
0.65 inches in Death Valley
All this rainfall in a relatively short period of time, allowed rivers
and washed to fill up rapidly. The Ventura River has reported some local
flooding and the Conejo Creek in Camarillo was seen water spill over
The Pacific Coast Highway east of Santa Barbara was closed at times on
Friday afternoon due to mudslides and flooding. Interstate 110 was also
closed near Slauson, California on Friday evening.
The Santa Barbara Airport also closed due to flooding on runways Friday
evening into Saturday morning.
Numerous swift water rescues were performed across Southern California.
In the Sierras, Ponderosa received 24 inches and Mt Baldy Ski Resort saw
20-24 inches of new snow in 48 hours ending Saturday morning and Squaw
Valley received 12 inches in 24 hours ending Saturday morning. New snow
at Alpine Meadows put them over 500" for the winter.
On Monday, February 20, 1.74 inches of rain were measured at Sacramento
Executive Airport and San Francisco International Airport measured 2.16
inches of rain, which are both new records for Feb. 20.
A 77-mph wind gust was measured early Monday evening in Los Gatos,
California, a suburb of San Jose. A gust of 81 mph was also observed
south-southwest of Dos Palos.
Alpine Meadows ski resort measured a wind gust of an incredible 199 mph
Monday night. Due to the high winds, a power outage and avalanche
danger, Alpine Meadows was closed Tuesday.
Additionally, up to 42 inches of new snow have been measured at Heavenly
ski resort in the Sierra Nevada in the 24 hours ending Tuesday morning.
More than 5 inches of rain have fallen in the 48 hours ending at 9 a.m.
PST Tuesday in portions of Plumas, Shasta and Yuba counties in northern
California. Bucks Lake in Plumas County picked up more than 6 inches of
rain in that time period. Some western-slope areas of the northern
Sierra have seen 3 to 5 inches of rain, so far.
Over two dozen debris flows have been reported, so far, in parts of
Sonoma, Santa Clara, Monterey, Santa Cruz, Marin, San Mateo, Alameda,
Fresno and San Benito counties. Road flooding has also been observed on
over three dozen roads in this general region, and there was possible
damage to a bridge just north of Hollister.
A Record Wet Season?
A persistently wet pattern earlier this season was hailed as one that
could finally put a sizable dent in California's multi-year drought,
though deep groundwater supply still needs to be replenished.
Now, it has gone too far and may shatter all-time records in the state.
Since Oct. 1, it's been by far the wettest "water year-to-date" in
California's northern Sierra, according to data from the California
Department of Water Resources.
The same can be said in the central Sierra, and the southern Sierra is
also close to its record pace. California's "water year" runs from
October through September, in order to encompass one entire wet season,
peaking from November through March.
Northern Sierra precipitation has been more than double the average in
the 2016-17 wet season, and, more impressively, it's at least 20 inches
ahead of the pace of the two previous record wet seasons, 1997-98 and
Both of those standing record wet seasons were during strong El Niños,
but 2016-17 featured a weak La Niña, which just recently dissipated.
During the record-tying strong El Niño in 2015-16, the northern Sierra
picked up 10 fewer inches of precipitation through the entire water year
than they've picked up just through Sunday this water year.
The six-month period ending Feb. 12 was the wettest such period on
record in Sacramento (24.49 inches) and Pocatello, Idaho (12.81 inches),
according to the Southeast Regional Climate Center.
Examining statewide data, it has been the second-wettest
October-through-February period on record dating to the late 19th
century, according to Paul Iñiguez, science and operations officer at
the National Weather Service in Phoenix.
Shasta Lake, San Luis Reservoir, Don Pedro Reservoir, Lake McClure and
Castaic Lake are all at least 90 percent of capacity, as of Saturday –
well above the historical average for this time of year.
On Feb. 16, Lake Oroville fell below 90 percent capacity for the first
time since the Oroville Emergency Spillway became endangered.
Some of these reservoirs will surely rise again early this week with
In the Sierra, this is in large part due to a pair of atmospheric river
events – one in early February, and a wetter event in early January –
that produced rain over higher elevations, rather than snow.
This rain-on-snow in early February lead to marked inflows of water both
from precipitation and melting of the impressive snowpack from feet of
heavy snow since January. If that wasn't enough, the water content left
in the Sierra snowpack also remains well above the mid-February average.
Therefore, it's not just a heavy rain and snow event that is of concern.
Any rapid warmup over the next month or so could unleash rapid snowmelt,
putting stress on nearly full reservoirs.
It seems almost inconceivable the state had its driest year on record
just four years ago.