California's record rainfall leads to mudslides, sewage spills

Elsewhere States Calif 020524 AP Marcio Jose Sanchez

Despite the pause in precipitation, residents were reeling from ongoing mudslides, flood conditions, sewage spills and several storm-related deaths


“This is
the storm that won’t quit
in Southern California,” Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, said during a Tuesday afternoon webinar.  


“It is just keeping going,” he added.  


Southern California has weathered unforgiving rain, snow and wind conditions since two consecutive atmospheric rivers plowed into the region over the weekend.  


The storms have caused
at least 475 mudslides around Los Angeles
, while leaving more than a foot of rain in some areas, The Associated Press reported.    


At least seven storm-related deaths have occurred thus far across the Golden State, including four individuals crushed by trees and one swept into a Tijuana River channel near Mexico, per the AP.  


Firefighters earlier this week conducted a helicopter rescue operation, after a man jumped into the Los Angeles River to save his dog


Gov. Gavin Newsom (D)
declared a state of emergency
for eight counties over the weekend, authorizing a California National Guard response and expediting both unemployment benefits and repair work.  


About 70,000 Californian customers still had no electricity as of midday Wednesday, according to outage tracking site The Los Angeles Times, meanwhile, reported
millions of gallons of raw wastewater spewing from the county’s sewers onto area streets and drainage systems.  


While the atmospheric river conditions had calmed down by Wednesday, meteorologists stressed that the
wet weather was not entirely over


“An end is in sight, but not until Thu or Fri,” National Weather Service (NWS) Los Angeles forecasters warned Tuesday on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.   


“Do not let the break Wednesday morning misguide you — more rain and mountain snow coming Wednesday afternoon and night,” they added.  


NWS San Diego
offered similar words of caution,
telling Southern Californians to “be careful out there” and forecasting brief heavy downpours as showers move inland.  


In the northern portion of the state, NWS Sacramento predicted
periods of mountain snow
in the Southern Cascades and the Sierra Nevada. 


The atmospheric rivers may have “officially moved on,” but another system was moving eastward over Los Angeles, Swain warned during the Tuesday webinar.  


“The real problem here is that the soil is already saturated,” Swain said, noting the “continuous” presence of small to medium-sized mudslides in the area. 


“This could be a real mess for LA County if this holds together,” he added.  


Although Swain said he viewed the week’s weather as “exceptionally rare, perhaps multi-centennial” for Los Angeles, he objected to widespread media descriptions of a “1,000-year storm.” 


UCLA has only even been tracking rainfall for about 90 years — meaning that less than a tenth of the necessary data is even available, Swain explained.  


“It certainly isn’t a 1,000-year event in terms of the impacts of this storm,” he continued. 


That said, he noted Southern and Central California’s status as “pretty much on track for back-to-back very wet winters.” 


“It’s turned into a very interesting winter once again in California,” Swain added.  

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