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Climate and Environment

Storms Move Out But A New Weather System Could Hit SoCal Next Week

An aerial view of roof damage shows extensive destruction
A rare tornado — one of two this week in Southern California — touched down in Montebello Wednesday damaging businesses.
(Mario Tama
Getty Images)
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While we might still see brief periods of heavy downpours, the latest storm to hit Southern California will wrap up Thursday.

Light rain showers over the mountains could linger Thursday morning - about a tenth inch of rain — and light snow showers are expected at elevations of 4500 tonight on the north facing mountain slopes.

This storm was exceptional for a number of reasons, not the least because we saw tornadoes touch down in both Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties.

The first tornado struck Carpinteria on Tuesday, damaging mobile homes in the area with 75 mile per hour winds.

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While we see tornadoes — specifically landspouts and waterspouts — once or twice a year, rarely do they cause this much damage. The last time the Oxnard office of the National Weather Service had to classify a tornado was in 2016.

The second incident occurred Wednesday, when a tornado touched down in a roughly half mile stretch of an industrial area of Montebello. The NWS reports that this is the strongest tornado to touch down in the Los Angeles area since 1983.

The tornado lasted roughly 3 minutes and sustained a wind speed of 110 mph.

Videos show a funnel forming, debris flying through the air and the roofs being torn off commercial structures.

Seventeen structures were damaged in total with eleven of them sustaining significant damage. A power pole snapped and its transformer was ripped off according to a report from the NWS. Also, a 40 foot tall pine tree was knocked over and one person was sent to the hospital with minor injuries, according to Michael Chee, public information officer with the City of Montebello.

Overall, the destruction spread across about half an acre.

"It was very intense. It was very brief. Also fairly destructive," Chee said.

We have more information on the tornadoes and why it took so long for the NWS to declare that they had occurred.

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What's next

Thursday night into Friday morning will see gusty winds in the mountains and foothills, ranging in speeds between 20 to 30 mph, with some areas seeing up to 50 mph gusts.

Temperatures will remain cooler than average over the weekend.

We could see another storm Tuesday or Wednesday of next week bringing more rain and mountain snow, though the forecast is far from certain.

Road closures

  • You can search the latest road closures via CalTrans here and download an app to receive push notifications here.
  • State route 189 in Lake Arrowhead is currently closed due to possible erosion issues and wall complications according to Caltrans officials. The stretch of road closed is from North Bay Road to State Route 173. Caltrans officials are evaluating the damage and are advising drivers to take State Route 18 to State Route 173 to get to Lake Arrowhead Village.
  • State route 18 is closed from Upper to Lower Waterman Canyon due to rock slides. Caltrans recommends cancelling travel down through the area, though travel up the mountain is unaffected.

Weather advisories

  • There's still dangerous surf at the beaches, with a high surf advisory is in place for Ventura and L.A County beaches until 5 a.m. Thursday.
  • A wind advisory is in effect from 8 p.m. Thursday to 6 a.m. Friday for these areas where wind gusts are expected to reach up to 50 mph — South Ventura County mountains, Interstate 5 corridor, Interstate 14 corridor, Western San Gabriel Mountains and the Western Antelope Valley foothills.

Evacuation maps

A list of maps that should display evacuation warnings and orders when they're issued:

What to know about flood warnings

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

How's California doing on water?

The February and March storms went a long way towards saturating parched soil, filling reservoirs and increasing snowpack to historic levels.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, much of the state has had its drought conditions alleviated, though there are big chunks that are still quite dry.

A map of California showing that the central portion of the state has had drought conditions alleviated, while the south and northeastern parts of the state are still struggling.
March 14, 2023 drought monitor map
(National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln

  • Reservoir conditions: slightly below average, though they will fill as the year goes on
  • Statewide snowpack (important store of water during dry months): 225 percent of normal for this date.
  • Rainfall across CA: 27.22 inches or 147 percent of normal.
  • Rainfall in L.A.: 31.76 inches or 198 percent of normal.
  • Most of Orange County has seen more than an inch rain
  • Most L.A. County areas have also seen an inch of rain or more.
  • You can see all the latest rain and snow totals across the state here.

Driving in the rain

  • Roadway safety experts advised motorists to:

    • Check weather and road conditions all along your planned route
    • Slow down
    • Keep a wider-than-usual distance between your vehicle and the one in front
    • Don't drive through standing water — as little as 12 inches of rushing water can carry away most cars, and two feet can carry away SUVs and trucks.
    • Make sure tires are fully inflated
    • Check windshield wiper blades and replace if necessary

How to stay safe in thunder and lightning

Thunder and lightning safety tips
  • You should be safe indoors during a lightning storm, but there are still dangers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one-third of lightning-strike injuries actually occur indoors. Here are some tips from the agency to keep you safe at home:

    • Avoid water. Don't bathe, shower, wash dishes, or have any other contact with water during a thunderstorm because lightning can travel through a building’s plumbing.
    • Don’t touch electronic equipment. Don't use anything connected to an electrical outlet, such as computers, laptops, game systems, washers, dryers, or stoves. Lightning can travel through electrical systems, radio and television reception systems, and any metal wires or bars in concrete walls or flooring. Surge protectors can help avoid this.
    • Avoid windows, doors, porches, and concrete. Don't lie on concrete floors or lean on concrete walls during a thunderstorm because lightning can travel through any metal wires or bars in concrete walls or flooring.
    • Don’t use phones with cords. It is safe to use cordless or cellular phones during a storm.
  • It's best to avoid the outdoors entirely during thunder and lightning storms. — hence the phrase “When thunder roars, go indoors.” If you can't get inside a building, staying in a hard-top vehicle with the windows rolled up works too.

  • But if you can't avoid being outside, here are some safety tips:

    • Immediately get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges, or peaks.
    • Never lie flat on the ground. Crouch down in a ball-like position with your head tucked and hands over your ears so that you are down low with minimal contact with the ground.
    • Never shelter under an isolated tree. If you are in a forest, shelter near lower trees.
    • Never use a cliff or rocky overhang for shelter.
    • Immediately get out of and away from ponds, lakes, and other bodies of water.
    • Stay away from objects that conduct electricity (such as barbed wire fences, power lines, or windmills).
    • Separate from others. This will reduce the number of injuries if lightning strikes the ground.
    • If you are out in the open water and a storm rolls in, return to shore immediately. If caught in a storm in a small boat with no cabin, drop anchor and get as low as possible.
    • Don’t stay in open structures.Avoid open structures such as porches, gazebos, baseball dugouts, and sports arenas. These structures won’t protect you from lightning.
    • Stay away from open spaces such as golf courses, parks, playgrounds, ponds, lakes, swimming pools, and beaches. Seek shelter immediately.
    • Stay away from tall structures, such as telephone poles and trees; lightning tends to strike the tallest object around.
  • Here are additional tips from the American Red Cross in both English and Spanish:

How to stay safe in high winds

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.

Tips to keep your heating bills down

  • 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.

Additional storm resources

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 March 22, 2023 at 6:25 PM PDT
This story was updated to reflect a correction from the National Weather Service. The last time the Oxnard office had to classify a local tornado was in 2016, rather than 2015, as they had originally stated to us.
Updated March 21, 2023 at 8:13 AM PDT
This story was updated with the latest storm related advisories and road closures
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