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Climate and Environment

Thousands Remain Without Power, Dozens Of Roads Closed Including Grapevine Overnight

A large tree blocks a roadway, crashing into a parked car on a residential street. Power lines are also down.
After a eucalyptus tree toppled over at Cypress Park Recreation Center. power is not scheduled to be restored until Sunday afternoon, according to the LADWP.
(John Rabe
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Where to find the latest information

Shortly before 8 p.m. the National Weather Service said a flood watch was no longer in effect of L.A., Ventura and Santa Barbara counties but cautioned that "brief heavy showers and small hail remain possible through this evening."

Earlier, just before 5 p.m., the weather service issued a "special weather statement" warning that "small hail, gusty outflow winds and landspouts were possible with the storm." That specific warning was for the Norwalk, Compton, Downey area and lasted until 5:45 p.m.

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L.A. County lifeguards closed all county beaches for several hours after lightning strikes in the area, the first of hit about 12:20 p.m. The concern was that and additional strikes may take place through early afternoon. They were reopened about 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

Conditions remain treacherous, so please be careful out there.

L.A. Fire Department officials said two men stranded on different dry land areas surrounded by rising water at Hansen Dam were hoisted to safety by helicopter Saturday morning.

Another man was also pulled to safety in Sunland in the Tujunga Wash. Fire officials said the man, 61, told them he'd left his van after becoming stranded by water about midnight. He was spotted Saturday morning by a passerby. Officials said he is being treated for hypothermia.

Status of power outages

As of 10 a.m. Saturday — the most recent update of overall outages from the L.A. Dept. of Water and Power — more than 66,000 L.A. customers remained without power.

LADWP officials said the peak of outages for the city came overnight, when as many as 78,000 customers were without electricity.

Current LADWP outage map

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As of 8 p.m. Saturday an additional 13,000 Southern California Edison customers were without power, nearly 8,000 in L.A. County.

Downed power lines due to the high winds and rain remain a serious danger. Authorities say you should call 911 and avoid the area if you see power lines on the ground.

“Our crews are the best at what they do and will work around the clock until every customer has power restored," said Brian Wilbur, a senior manager with LADWP, in a statement released Saturday. At the same time, they're cautioning restoring power could take as long as 24 to 48 hours as crews deal with clearing trees.

Road closures

Caltrans said the Grapevine will be closed overnight Saturday in to Sunday, with multiple other freeways also shut down due to snow and flooding.

Earlier, a small mudslide had Topanga Canyon Boulevard (SR-27) shut down from PCH to Grand View Drive.

In the Antelope Valley, Caltrans closed a 20-mile stretch of SR-14 for much of the day between Sand Canyon Road and Avenue S. They reopened the road to escort vehicles through the area shortly before 2 p.m.

In Orange County, Pacific Coast Highway was closed in Huntington Beach in both directions from Seapoint Street to Warner Avenue because of flooding. Angela Davis, a spokesperson for CalTrans District 12, said there's no estimate on when it'll open back up.

There have also been warnings about poor driving conditions in areas that don't typically see snow.

Activities and events postponed

Conditions are concerning enough that Saturday's season opener between the L.A. Galaxy and LAFC has been postponed due to the weather. That highly anticipated game was rescheduled to July 4 at the Rose Bowl.

For those looking to go outside, you may have to wait until Sunday. L.A. County has closed parks and trails across the region.

Stay away from the beaches, too. The LA County Department of Public Health has issued an advisory through Sunday at 10:30 a.m. to stay out of the ocean, creeks and rivers.

A statement from Dr. Muntu Davis, the L.A. County Health Officer, says "bacteria, chemicals, debris, trash, and other public health hazards from city streets and mountain areas are likely to contaminate ocean waters at and around discharging storm drains, creeks, and rivers after a rainfall. Individuals who enter the water in these areas could become ill."

In the mountains, Mount Baldy Resort expects to be open for skiing, but only for season pass and reserved ticket holders.

Think twice before you hit the road, though — conditions in the mountains will be treacherous.

Read more: Why Skiiers And Snowboarders Itching To Get A Taste Of All That Fresh Powder May Want To Stay Home

More on road closures and driving conditions

Keep in mind:

  • Chains are now required for travel along State Routes 2, 18, 38 and 138.
  • There are road closures all over the region, including several in San Bernardino County.
  • State Route 33 remains closed up from Matilija Hot Springs Rd to Ozena Fire Station in Ojai. (Note: This area has been closed since January because of the storms. It's a popular route for people heading to see snow in the mountains, but don't try to use it right now.)
  • Parts of PCH in Orange County are also closed due to flooding, according to the National Weather Service

Both Caltrans and the L.A. County Department of Public Works have road closures and conditions listed on their sites. Please check these links for the most up-to-date information.

A note to drivers on our roads

  • Check your tire treads and pressure before hitting rain-slicked roads.
  • Know that middays can be the most dangerous.
  • Plan ahead, check road conditions, and give yourself plenty of time.
  • Turn on your headlights.
  • Slow down!
  • If you do end up skidding, don't panic.
  • Don't drive through standing water —  just 12 inches of rushing water can carry away most cars, and two feet can carry away SUVs and trucks.
  • Pay attention

We have more detailed guidance: Your Guide To Driving Safely In The Rain In LA (And Really Anywhere).

What to know about flood watch/warnings

A flash flood watch is in effect for the mountains above Los Angeles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara through Saturday afternoon.

Here's an excerpt from our guide to understanding flood warnings:

  • Flood advisories are how the NWS begins to raise the alarm. The goal is to give people enough time to take action.
  • Flood watches are your indicators to get prepared to move.
  • A flood warning is issued when a hazardous weather event is imminent or already happening. When one is issued for your area, you need to get to higher ground immediately.
  • A flash flood warning is issued when a flash flood is coming or in progress. Flash floods are sudden and violent floods that can start within minutes.

Read more: Flash Flood Warnings? Watches? Here’s What You Need To Know

A tornado touched down this week

Around 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, the historic storm spun up a small, short-lived tornado in La Mirada, according to the NWS. There, it took down a handful of trees. No injuries were reported.

During strong winter storms it's not uncommon for waterspouts to form off the coast. It's hard to catch a gander of the strong funnels of gusty air that stretch from the cloud base to the water because they don't usually last very long. But when they do they can make their way inland, where they're immediately classified as landspouts or tornadoes.

The ones we get here usually produce gusts of 50 to 60 mph and are concentrated to areas of 50 feet or less, according to the NWS. They can cause localized damage.

What the L.A. River looks and sounds like

L.A. River in storm
Brian Feinzimer for LAist)

Evacuation warnings have been issued

With risks of mudslides as the rain intensifies, evacuation warnings have been issued in part of Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

In L.A. County, evacuation warnings have been issued for unincorporated areas near the Lake Fire and north end of the Bobcat Fire burn scars due to the potential for mud or debris flows. Those warnings are effective from Thursday at 6 p.m. through Sunday, Feb. 26 at 6 a.m.

Ventura County has put evacuation warnings in place from 3 p.m. Thursday through 10 a.m. Saturday. Debris flows are often of concern in the area during heavy rain events, especially in recently burned areas.

Where mudslides are a concern

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Works is anticipating debris flows in some recently burned areas through Sunday, including near the:

  • Land fire burn scar in La Tuna Canyon
  • Fish fire burn scar in Duarte
  • Grandview fire burn scar in Glendale
  • Ranch2 fire burn scar  in Mountain Cove
  • Bobcat fire burn scar in Monrovia, Juniper Hills, Devil’s Punchbowl, and Valyermo
  • Lake fire burn scar in Lake Hughes
  • Tujunga fire burn scar in Sunland-Tujunga
  • Soledad fire burn scar in Agua Dulce
  • Equestrian fire burn scar in Castaic

How to respond to the storm

The L.A. Fire Department shared tips with us on everything from good weather alert apps to download to what you can do to get your house ready — and where you can pick up sandbags.

Read more: A Storm Is Coming. LA Fire Officials Have These Tips On Getting Ready Now

What's next

There’s another storm anticipated this coming week after a short break in the weather Sunday.

Where to find winter shelters in L.A. and Orange counties

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority is offering over 500 motel vouchers for the unhoused population due to the severe weather. For a referral to the site closest to you, call 211.

"Not only will 211 tell you where to go, but they can arrange transportation either through a LAHSA outreach team or other means to ensure that that person gets to a safe bed tonight," said Ahmad Chapman, LAHSA's communications director.

Outreach workers have been visiting encampments near rivers and creeks, offering sleeping bags and tents, and showing people where to seek higher ground if they don't want access to the winter shelter programs, as well.

Here are the other shelter sites throughout Los Angeles County:

[View the document here if it doesn't load above for you: L.A. County winter shelters]

Shelters have been in demand.

On Wednesday night in Orange County, the Cold Weather Emergency Shelter reached full occupancy for the first time, with 90 individuals experiencing homelessness staying the night. The shelter provides meals and showers, and transportation to the shelter is available.

It's a fairly recent addition to the area. OC officials didn't open the shelter until Feb. 1, even though storms have been battering California residents for months.

The California Office of Emergency Services has posted a list of warming centers throughout the state.

Tips on staying warm

  • State law requires residential units to have heating systems that can keep indoor temperatures at a minimum of 70 degrees. That means every dwelling unit and guest room offered for rent or lease should offer heating equipment, usually central air conditioning (A/C) or a wall heater. — Caitlin Hernández

  • Use heat smartly to save money: Cranking things like the A/C and wall heaters can be expensive. If money is tight, be judicious about how and when you use your utilities. For example, only use heaters at night or only set the thermostat to around 70 degrees.

  • Open and close those vents: If you have central A/C, look at where the vents are around your home. Are any open in places where you don’t stay long? Practice opening and closing those so warm air only goes where you need it (most vents should have a small toggle lever). Humidifiers can also help you warm things up — and it’s useful to add moisture into our dry air.

  • Adjust your wall heaters: If you have a wall heater, you can change the output by adjusting the knob (usually at the bottom). Since wall heaters can only warm the areas where they’re placed, it’s essential to close doors to rooms you won’t be in so hot air doesn’t get wasted.

  • Turn on your ceiling fan (really): If you have a ceiling fan, try turning it on. This sounds counterintuitive, but there’s science behind it. The direction a fan turns can push air in different directions, and since hot air floats up, you’ll want to move that around. Your fan should spin clockwise to create an updraft to circulate. Not all fans will have this option, though.

Staying safe when winds are high

Safety tips from Southern California Edison
    • Watch for traffic signals that may be out. Approach those intersections as four-way stops.
    • Make sure you have a battery-operated radio and flashlights. Check the batteries to make sure they are fresh. Use flashlights for lighting during a power outage; do not use candles because they may pose a significant fire hazard.
    • If you’re in a vehicle with a fallen power line on it, stay in the vehicle and remain calm until help arrives. It is OK to use your cellphone to call 911. If you must leave the vehicle, remember to exit away from downed power lines and exit by jumping from the vehicle and landing with both feet together. You must not touch the vehicle and the ground at the same time. Then proceed away from the vehicle by shuffling and not picking up your feet until you are several yards away. 
    • Water and electricity don’t mix. Water is an excellent conductor of electricity. Do not step in or enter any water that a downed power line may be touching.
    • Do not use any equipment inside that is designed for outdoor heating or cooking. Such equipment can emit carbon monoxide and other toxic gases.
    • If you use a generator, place it outdoors and plug individual appliances directly into it, using a heavy-duty extension cord. Connecting generators directly to household circuits creates “backfeed,” which is dangerous to repair crews.
    • Leave the doors of your refrigerator and freezer closed to keep food as fresh as possible. Place blocks of ice inside to help keep food cold. Check food carefully for signs of spoilage. 
    • Check on your neighbors to make sure everyone is safe.

Staying safe in the rain

It's not all bad — we had rainbows and there's positive news for the drought

About 30% of California's water comes from the snow up in the Sierra, and as of Friday, the snow levels are at 144% of our April 1 average. With more snow in the forecast, it’s time to take a breath and feel good for a moment, because at least drought conditions aren’t getting worse.

“Moving forward, between our reservoirs, the snowpack we have on the hill, as well as the snowpack throughout the entire southwestern U.S., we’re looking pretty favorable for an upcoming year that’ll help bring us out of drought instead of sending us further into it,” Andrew Schwartz, lead scientist and manager at the UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab, told LAist 89.3's AirTalk. “It’s just really helping us start to resolve our drought issues in the long term.”

Groundwater stores are still in a deficit and will take quite more than just one good year of precipitation to replenish. As for the current load of snow, ideally it will melt slowly over the coming months (usually starting in May), so that the water has an opportunity to percolate deep into the ground, and feed plants, trees, rivers, and reservoirs long into our dry season.

Whether that happens depends on the type of weather we see. Higher temperatures could hit us at any time, get to work melting the snow and increasing evaporative demand. In that case, things will start to dry faster than is ideal and greater stress will be put on our landscapes. Rising temperatures as a result of climate change are taking a toll, and it’s important to remember that the next big drought year could be right around the corner.

How we're covering this

Rebecca Gutierrez has been talking to the NWS. Jacob Margolis, who covers science, reported during the week on overall weather conditions. Additional LAist staff are contributing photos and more information.

What questions do you have about the weather we're experiencing?
A massive winter storm is hitting Southern California. We're here to answer your questions.

Updated February 25, 2023 at 11:10 AM PST
Additional information about power outages has been added to this report.
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