Weather

California rain forces river rescue; mountains set for snow

Posted November 21
Updated November 22

Early morning commuters drive south along Interstate 5, in Burbank, Calif, as storm clouds begin to clear from the sky over downtown Los Angeles on Monday, Nov. 21, 2016. About an inch of rain fell across much of the Los Angeles area beginning Sunday, according to the National Weather Service. The rain was much heavier to the north, with 2.2 inches reported at a mountain weather station in San Luis Obispo County between Los Angeles and San Francisco. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

— Firefighters using boats rescued four people trapped on an island of the raging Los Angeles River early Monday after a storm gorged waterways and led to warnings of unsavory ocean conditions and snowy mountain roads that could hamper Thanksgiving plans.

Two men and two women, believed to be transients, got stuck on the island just north of downtown Los Angeles after heavy rain that started Sunday turned the normally trickling river into a torrent. They were not hurt.

Homeless people who congregate along the river were warned ahead of the storm to find higher ground, but "for whatever reason, these people chose to ignore those warnings," fire Capt. Daniel Curry said.

About an inch of rain fell across much of the Los Angeles area beginning Sunday, the National Weather Service said. The downpour was heavier to the north, with 2.2 inches reported at a mountain weather station between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

It was the first significant rainfall for parched Los Angeles since mid-October. Before the storm, the year's rainfall totals were about half the historical average. More than 40 percent of the state is in "extreme and exceptional drought," according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, and the storm won't ease dry conditions in those areas.

East in Arizona, a one-two punch of storms hit the Phoenix area. The first brought nearly an inch of rain to the state's most populous county, while the second wave was expected to last into the evening. New Mexico also braced for wet weather, with higher elevations expecting rain and snow, forecasters said.

Visitors and residents heading to the beach in Southern California for Thanksgiving week were warned to stay out of the ocean in some areas.

Los Angeles County health officials advised swimmers and surfers to stay on dry land for at least three days because of storm runoff. Bacteria levels can increase significantly after rainstorms as contaminants enter the ocean via storm drains, creeks and rivers.

The advisory, customary following heavy rains, is in place through Thursday morning.

Further north, several inches of snow was forecast in the Sierra Nevada, prompting warnings for drivers to take precautions on mountain roads as they travel for the Thanksgiving holiday. Much of Northern California got a respite from rain Monday, but another system was expected to move in Tuesday evening.

The California Highway Patrol said about 200 collisions were reported on Los Angeles County freeways between 9 p.m. Sunday and 1 a.m. Monday — compared with 30 during the same period a week ago when it was dry.

Most flood advisories have been lifted, but authorities warned that hillside areas burned bare of vegetation during summer wildfires were susceptible to mudslides because of rain soaking the dry ground.

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