Californians battle more flooding, as record-setting rainfall and high winds slam the state
Hundreds of water rescues were necessary this past week following a levee breach in one Central California community, while a longstanding rainfall record was smashed in Los Angeles.
After the Pajaro River burst over a crumbling levee, forcing evacuations, residents of the flooded community are looking at months of cleanup at the least.
Yet another round of storms in California this week drenched the state, bringing record-setting rainfall to several spots and forcing first responders to make a number of water rescues.
On Tuesday, record daily maximum rainfall records were set across Southern California, including in Los Angeles.
Downtown Los Angeles received 1.89 inches of rain, breaking a record of 1.74 inches that was set nearly 100 years ago on March 14, 1930. The city is already approaching annual rainfall records, with 2023 now the 14th wettest year on record for downtown (23.99 inches so far). Another half an inch of rain will nudge the ranking up to 12th. The record at Los Angeles International Airport was also smashed, with 1.97 inches of rainfall topping the previous daily record of 0.43 of an inch.
Throughout the state, roadways remained closed on Thursday due to recent rockslides and mudslides caused by the rain. This included a stretch of State Route 33 north of Ojai in Ventura County. A video shared by the California Department of Transportation showed a front-end loader removing large rocks from the highway.
Other daily rainfall records broken Tuesday in Southern California include Long Beach Airport (1.53 inches), Camarillo Airport (2.04 inches), Oxnard (2.25 inches) and Santa Barbara Airport (2.54 inches). The highest 72-hour rain totals were concentrated in the northern part of the state, with Shasta Dam, Honeydew and Stirling City each picking up more than 9 inches.
The latest atmospheric river affected the state from Monday to Wednesday and came right on the heels of a separate storm system that brought soaking rain to the snow-packed higher elevations of the Sierra Nevada late last week.
The impressive rainfall over the past week led to a dangerous situation in the community of Pajaro, located about 70 miles south of San Francisco, after the rain-swollen Pajaro River burst through its levee and flooded the area. Video captured in the heart of the neighborhood showed water coming up to the top of cars.
Dramatic video captures Los Angeles Fire Department crews rescue a man from a turbulent Los Angeles River on March 15.
Thousands of residents in Santa Cruz County and Monterey County were forced to evacuate due to the levee break, with about 300 displaced residents having to take shelter at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds. Monterey County Sheriff Tina Nieto stated that over 239 water rescues were made in Pajaro after flooding began.
Monterey County officials said on Tuesday that “Phase 1” of emergency repairs has been completed, and work will continue to completely secure both exposed ends of the levee at the breach. Work will also include raising the emergency breach repair to full levee height.
According to KSBW, a news station based out of Salinas, California, some Pajaro residents are beginning to express frustration about the timeline regarding when they will be allowed to go back into their homes.
“We have to sleep in a hotel or sleep in the car or sleep on the street. There are children, and we haven't thought about the children,” Elva Carrillo, a Pajaro resident, told KSBW.
Rainfall amounts reported in California between Sunday, March 12 and Wednesday, March 15.
Farther north in the capital city of Sacramento, a water rescue was made in flooded conditions, with Sacramento Fire responding to a report of two adults and a dog trapped inside a makeshift homestead.
Rainfall was not the only threat facing California residents this week, as alarmingly high wind gusts attributed to a mass amount of power outages in the Bay Area. In Loma Prieta, roughly 20 miles south of San Jose, wind gusts reached 97 mph.
Winds were strong enough to knock down trees in San Mateo County and overturn a truck on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge just outside San Francisco. The National Weather Service reported wind gusts as high as 70 mph in the San Francisco area Tuesday.
Top wind gusts reported in California on March 14 and 15.
On Wednesday morning, about 200,000 power customers in the Bay Area were still in the dark after the treacherous winds took down power lines. As of 2 p.m. PDT Wednesday, over 144,000 customers were still without power throughout California according to PowerOutage.US, including over 67,000 in Santa Clara County, home to San Jose. By Thursday morning, roughly 51,000 customers were without electricity statewide.
The state will have relief from storms throughout the remainder of the week, but AccuWeather meteorologists warn that next Monday and Tuesday could bring more rain, heavy snow and gusty winds.
Want next-level safety, ad-free? Unlock advanced, hyperlocal severe weather alerts when you subscribe to Premium+ on the AccuWeather app. AccuWeather Alerts™ are prompted by our expert meteorologists who monitor and analyze dangerous weather risks 24/7 to keep you and your family safer.Report a Typo
Top StoriesMore Stories