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Climate and Environment

Weekend Brings New Rains And Worries About Flooding, Mudslides And Driving Conditions

A car is visible in the mud under a roadway that has collapsed. A row of barricades and police tape block access at the right
Two cars were swallowed in a large sinkhole that opened during a day of relentless rain on Jan. 10, 2023 in Chatsworth. Officials have asked people to limit travel this weekend out of concern about dangerous driving conditions.
(Robyn Beck
AFP via Getty Images)
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While this weekend's rainfall will be less intense than other recent storms, officials are still cautioning everyone to be careful on the roads and aware of conditions — particular in area vulnerable to mudslides.

Keep in mind that state officials said about half of the 19 people killed in storm-related incidents in that last two weeks were in cars.

Flood advisories were issued for a number of Southern California counties Saturday, as well as cautions about high seas and rip tides through earlier next week.

That said, National Weather Service meteorologists said they do not expect the issues to be as extensive as earlier in the week.

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State water agency officials say this is the eighth in a series of nine storms that have hit California in recent weeks.

The Current Forecast

The first of two storms will last until about 10 p.m. Saturday, tapering off by midnight. Around an inch is expected in most of Los Angeles County but the foothills and mountains could get up to three inches.

David Sweet, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, says with this storm, flooding and debris flow aren't of much concern like they were with the storm earlier in the week.

"Looks like the peak one hour rates are anywhere from two-tenths to three-tenths of rain," Sweet said. "And those rainfall rates usually do not cause problems."

After Saturday tonight, we'll get a break from the rain before a second storm comes late Sunday and will continue through at least Monday evening.

What You Should Know

  • Expect possible flooding on the freeways
  • Be prepared for rock slides in vulnerable areas, including Laurel Canyon, Pacific Coast Highway, Kanan Road, and Las Virgenes Road

Michael Anderson, state climatologist for the Department of Water Resources, says the continued rains will test the state's storm systems.

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"Rivers continue to fluctuate with each storm, but they will remain high even after the rain ends. And this tends to put a strain on the levee systems and other flood management infrastructure. So just be aware that conditions hydrologically can extend even beyond the weather conditions that have been going on."

Most of the flood danger is in the Central Valley and Northern California. State officials say flood fight supplies including sand bags, levee protection, and containers have been deployed to Southern California, too.

A Note To Drivers On Our Roads

  • Check your car
  • Know that middays can be the most dangerous
  • Plan ahead
  • Turn on your headlights
  • Slow down!
  • If you do end up skidding, don't panic
  • Don't drive through standing water
  • Pay attention, duh

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

Road Closures And Conditions

Check conditions before taking your trip:

Impact On The Drought

With the storms this month, it may be tempting to think our prolonged drought is over — but experts caution it will take more than a few exceptional storms.

Here's what we do know: The city of Los Angeles County reported Friday that it's captured more than 10.6 billion gallons of water this storm season, which is enough to support 139,00 households for a year. Or, if you want visualize it "equivalent to filling 16,000 Olympic-size swimming pools."

Still, most rainwater is lost to the ocean. The recent storms have underscored the need to accelerate the region's ability to capture more of it.

“Given the magnitude of Los Angeles' water crisis, we must urgently act to capture rainfall and keep it from being washed away into the ocean,” said Mayor Karen Bass. in statement. “I have set a goal to maximize on-site rainwater capture because that is the only way to sustain our city in the future, and I will continue to support LADWP's efforts to repair and build our infrastructure to achieve it.”

Currently, stormwater accounts for about one-third of L.A.'s water supply during a year.

California's Storm Response

There are federal, state and local emergency declarations in place.

A federal disaster declaration unlocks potential financial help for homeowners, renters and small businesses affected by the storms.

That means people should document any damages and report them to their county office of Emergency Management.

Gov. Gavin Newsom's has also announced $202 million from the state's budget will be invested into long-term flood prevention to improve urban flooding and levees, particularly in the Delta region.

About Atmospheric Rivers

A single atmospheric river can carry more water than the Mississippi River at its mouth and its winds can be dangerous.

An illustration of the West Coast from an aerial perspective shows a thick band of blue moisture forming over the ocean and traveling inland over California's mountains.
(Courtesy NOAA)

But these phenomena are also a normal part of West Coast weather, bringing sorely needed rain and adding to the snowpack that's a key source of our state's water.

At the same time, it's the same weather event that triggered the catastrophic Montecito mudslide in early 2018.

Eric Boldt, with the National Weather Service, told us that you can think of atmospheric rivers just like the name implies: a river in the sky.

"So an atmospheric river is basically the fuel of a storm system over the Pacific Ocean," he said. "It really taps into a lot of water vapor that is streaming over the top of our heads and fueling the storm system as it moves to California."

How We're Covering These Storns

Producers from our newsroom are monitoring updates as the storm moves through Southern California. Reporting by Julia Paskin, Jill Replogle and Caitlin Hernández contributed to this story.

What Questions We're Asking

  • What damage will this storm cause?
  • How much rain will we get?
  • Where will we see flooding?

Learn more

Your Questions Or Ideas

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.

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Corrected January 17, 2023 at 1:45 PM PST
An earlier version of this story said that L.A. County had captured 10.6 billion gallons of water in recent storms. It was the city of L.A. that reported those figures.