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Powerful Storm Slams Southland; Brings Drenching Rain, Snow

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – A strong storm system that struck Northern California over the weekend worked its way down the coast and hit the Southland. It was expected to drench the region with rain throughout the day Tuesday, raising the risk of flooding and debris flows in recent wildfire burn areas.

Minor flooding and debris flows on Elizabeth Lake Road in Palmdale, Calif. Dec. 14, 2021. (Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department)

Downtown L.A. had received 2.03 inches of rain as of 11:30 a.m. Eagle Rock Reservoir had received 3.03 inches of rain, Woodland Hills had received 4.58 inches, Calabasas had 2.86 inches and Burbank saw 1.52 inches.

A flash flood watch is in effect through 6 p.m. Tuesday in Los Angeles County burn areas, including the Bobcat, Ranch 2, Dam, Lake and Palisades fires. Forecasters warned that those areas could see intense downpours with an inch or more of rain per hour.

"Residents near these burn scars should prepare for potential flash flooding and debris flow impacts," according to the National Weather Service.

RELATED: Evacuation Orders, Warnings Issued Across Southern California

By 9:30 a.m., about 11,000 L.A. Department of Water and Power customers were without electricity, with about 5,000 of those in the Westwood neighborhood.

The storm forced multiple rescue attempts in the fast-moving Los Angeles River between downtown L.A. and Sylmar. A man who was swept into a channel in Sylmar was able to maintain cell phone contact with emergency dispatchers and was rescued by firefighters. At least three empty vehicles were discovered floating down the river, two of which got wedged under the Washington Boulevard bridge downtown. No one was found in any of the cars, however.

Streets were flooded across the L.A. metro area. At least one lane of the Sepulveda tunnel to L.A. International Airport was flooded.

In Palmdale, the rain caused minor debris flows and flooding on Elizabeth Lake Road. In Castaic, a stretch of Lake Hughes Road had to be closed due to mud and debris that cascaded over the roadway.

Two of the region's most popular amusement parks, Six Magic Mountain in Valencia, and Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, announced they would be closed Tuesday because of the heavy rain.


"Due to the threat of heavy rain bands and a slight chance of thunderstorms capable of producing high intensity short duration rainfall, there will be the potential for debris flows over recent burn areas as well as significant roadway flooding," according to the NWS.

Evacuation orders and warnings were issued across the region. Santa Barbara County issued an evacuation order for the area impacted by the recent Alisal Fire, which broke out in October and destroyed several homes. In San Bernardino County, an evacuation order was issued for the area hit by the El Dorado Fire, which broke out in September of 2020.

The Orange County Sheriff's Department issued a voluntary evacuation warning for residents in the Bond Fire burn area, including Modjeska, Silverado and Williams canyons.

Another area of concern is the Bobcat Fire burn scar in Monrovia. The Bobcat Fire -- which started in September of 2020 and took two months to fully contain -- burned nearly 116,000 acres in the Angeles National Forest and destroyed 87 homes in the Antelope Valley foothills.

Meanwhile, the storm also brought high winds, with gusts up to 73 mph recorded in some mountain areas and from 30 to 45 mph in coastal and valley areas.

Snow also fell in the mountains at elevations of 6,000 to 7,000 feet. Forecasters said earlier that as much as three feet of snow could accumulate in the mountains.

The L.A. Fire Department and county Office of Emergency Management issued a series of reminders related to the potential for mud and debris flow. Among them were:

  • Acquire any needed sandbags and instructional materials at your local Los Angeles County fire station.
    Have an emergency plan in place.
  • Monitor radio and TV news closely for information about weather conditions and flooding in your area.
  • If your neighborhood is evacuated, identify important items to take (e.g., computers, photos, important documents, medications, and other essential items for your family and pets).
  • Have enough food and water to supply your family for at least a 72- hour period.
  • Remember to include a radio and flashlight with fresh batteries in your emergency kit.
  • Stay away from flood control channels, catch basins, canyons, and natural waterways that are vulnerable to flooding during periods of heavy rain.
  • Do not attempt to cross flooded areas and never enter moving water on foot or in a vehicle.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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