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California Storm Brings Flooding, Mudslides and Power Outages

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Workers clear a tree that fell onto a home
Workers clear a tree that fell onto a home during heavy wind and rain on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024, in San Jose, California. (Noah Berger/AP Photo)

A powerful storm fueled by an atmospheric river pounded Southern California on Monday, causing widespread flooding, turning hillsides into rivers of mud and rocks, knocking out power to many and leading to evacuation orders in some areas.

About 1.4 million people in the Los Angeles area, including the Hollywood Hills and Beverly Hills, were under a flash flood warning Monday morning. Up to 9 inches of rain had already fallen in the area, with more expected, according to the National Weather Service, which called the flash flooding and threat of mudslides “a particularly dangerous situation.”

A text late Sunday alerted Keki Mingus, who lives in the Studio City section of Los Angeles, that a neighbor’s house at the top of a hill was in trouble.

“Mud, rocks and water came rushing down through their house and another neighbor’s house and into our street,” Mingus said as water continued to rush down the road around dawn on Monday. “I can’t believe it. It looks like a river that’s been here for years. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

A record 4.1 inches of rain fell Sunday in downtown Los Angeles, blowing past the previous record of 2.55 inches set in 1927, the National Weather Service said. Sunday was also the third-wettest February day ever recorded for the city’s downtown and was tied for its 10th-wettest day ever since records began in 1877.

People walk in the rain as a storm moves through with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background
People walk in the rain as a storm moves through with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background near Sausalito, California, on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024. (Eric Risberg/AP Photo)

In Northern California, the storm inundated streets and brought down trees and electrical lines Sunday throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, where winds topped 60 mph in some areas. Gusts exceeding 80 mph were recorded in the mountains.

Just to the south in San Jose, emergency crews pulled occupants out of the windows of a car that was stranded by flooding and rescued people from a homeless encampment alongside a rising river.

Search and rescue workers investigate a car surrounded by floodwater
Search and rescue workers investigate a car surrounded by floodwater as heavy rains caused the Guadalupe River to swell on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024, in San Jose, California. The vehicle was uninhabited. (Noah Berger/AP Photo)

In Yuba City, about 100 miles northeast of San Francisco, police said they were investigating the death of a man found under a big redwood tree in his backyard Sunday evening. A neighbor heard the tree fall, and it was possible the man was using a ladder to try and clear the redwood when he was killed, police said on Facebook.

The storm then moved into Southern California, where officials warned of potentially devastating flooding and ordered evacuations for canyons that burned in recent wildfires and are at high risk for mud and debris flows.

“We’ve had flooding. We’ve had gusty winds. We’ve had the whole gamut here,” said Todd Hall, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service near Los Angeles.

“I’ve been doing damage reports all night, so I’ve seen a fair amount of damage and of people being evacuated from homes due to mudslides,” Hall said.

Classes were canceled Monday for schools throughout Santa Barbara County, which was devastated by mudslides caused by 2018 storms.

Further down the coast, strong winds and heavy rain brought treacherous conditions to the city of Ventura, said Alexis Herrera, who was trying to bail out his flooded sedan. “All the freeways are flooded around here,” Herrera said in Spanish. “I don’t know how I’m going to move my car.”

More than 543,000 customers were without electricity statewide on Monday morning, according to poweroutage.us.

Palisades Tahoe, a ski resort about 200 miles northeast of San Francisco, said Sunday it was anticipating the heaviest snowfall yet this season, with accumulations of 6 inches per hour for a total of up to 2 feet. Heavy snow was expected into Monday throughout the Sierra Nevada and motorists were urged to avoid mountain roads.

Much of the state had been drying out from the initial atmospheric river-powered storm that blew in last week. The latest one, also called a “Pineapple Express” because its plume of moisture stretches back across the Pacific to near Hawaii, arrived offshore in Northern California on Saturday, when most of the state was under some sort of wind, surf or flood watch.

Atmospheric rivers are relatively narrow plumes of moisture that form over an ocean and can produce torrential amounts of rain as they move over land.

The weather service issued a rare “hurricane force wind warning” for the Central Coast, with wind gusts of up to 92 mph possible from the Monterey Peninsula to the northern section of San Luis Obispo County.

Evacuation orders and warnings were in effect for mountain and canyon areas of Monterey, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties. Los Angeles County Supervisor Lindsay Horvath urged residents near wildfire burn areas of Topanga and Soledad canyons to heed orders to get out ahead of possible mudslides.

“If you have not already left, please gather your family, your pets, your medications and leave immediately,” Horvath said at a Sunday briefing. The county set up shelters where evacuees could spend the night.

Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services activated its operations center and positioned personnel and equipment in areas most at risk.

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The Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest, said its schools would be open Monday, with the exception of Topanga Elementary Charter School and Vinedale College Preparatory Academy.

The weather service forecast up to 8 inches of rainfall across Southern California’s coastal and valley areas, with 14 inches possible in the foothills and mountains. Heavy to moderate rain is expected in Southern California until Tuesday.

“The storm will actually sit on top of us for today,” Hall said. “There’s really no relief, unfortunately, because this band is just stalled right over us, and it’s going to dump moderate to heavy rain on us all day.”



Associated Press videographer Eugene Garcia in Ventura, California,  and radio reporter Julie Walker in New York contributed to this report.


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