Feet of Rain and Snow Wreaking Havoc in California

December 20, 2010; 3:12 PM ET
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Torrential rain and more than 12 feet of mountain snow, while beneficial in the long run, have been wreaking havoc across California since Friday. More heavy rain and snow will continue pounding the state through the middle of this holiday week.

AccuWeather.com Western Expert Ken Clark says the additional rain on the way will bring totals for this entire event up to 5 to 10 inches in the coastal plain and valleys of central and Southern California. In the mountains and foothills, he expects rainfall totals to reach 1 to 2 feet, while snowfall totals climb to 15 or 20 feet in parts of the Sierra.

Clark, who lives in the Los Angeles area, reports that there have been increasing cases of flooding, mudslides and debris flows.

He said the heaviest rain through midday Monday has been focused from the south-central coast to the southern Sierra, but will shift farther south into Tuesday. This will put Southern California, including San Diego, in the heaviest rain zone during this time.

Yet another wave of heavy rain and mountain snow will follow Tuesday night into Wednesday, marking the end of this record-setting event.

Major disruptions to travel, both on the ground and in the air, will continue through the middle of the week. Numerous vehicle accidents have already been reported.

Rock and mudslides reportedly closed a 20-mile stretch of Pacific Coast Highway between Oxnard and Malibu Sunday night. Areas scorched by recent wildfires will remain especially susceptible to mudslides and debris flows during this event.

A Porsche navigates a flooded drive in Oakland, Calif., on Sunday, Dec. 19, 2010. Storms are dropping inches of rain throughout California and blanketing the Sierra Nevada with several feet of snow. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Flooding has also forced officials to close roads in other areas. In the southern San Joaquin Valley, homes have even reportedly taken on flood waters.

A record 2.80 inches of rain fell in downtown Los Angeles Sunday alone, and total rainfall since Friday was approaching 4 inches there by midday Monday. AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Katie Storbeck has more details on records that have been set in this news story.

In the Sierra, an impressive 12.5 feet, not inches, of snow had already piled up at Mammoth Mountain as of 6 a.m. Monday morning. Travel will be hazardous or even impossible at times in the mountains as several more feet of snow fall through Wednesday, and gusty winds create whiteout conditions.

Check Clark's blog for more of his expert analysis on this major event.

While the extreme weather is creating massive disruptions for many people during an incredibly busy time of the year, it will ultimately be beneficial for California, where water shortages are a major problem.

Many places rely on snowmelt from the Sierra for water supply. Clark says, "The L.A. metro area gets about 80 percent of its water from the drainage from the central Sierra."


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