LOS ANGELES – A storm walloped parts of California with up to 7 inches of rain and spawned minor flooding, mudslides and road closures Monday, but forecasters warn the bad weather's real impact may be yet to come.
More than 3 additional inches of rain expected across the region by Wednesday will hit already saturated hillsides, increasing the possibility of slides and flash floods, said Stuart Seto of the National Weather Service.
The relentless rains that pounded California through the weekend smashed rainfall records, caused numerous traffic accidents, downed trees and forced the cancellation of some horse races.
The weather service said rainfall accumulation could reach 20 inches in some isolated locations by Wednesday, when the first phase of the storm is expected to pass. After a brief respite, it is forecast to return late Christmas Day.
A 20-mile stretch of the scenic Pacific Coast Highway between Malibu and Oxnard was closed to commuters after a rock and mud slide Sunday night. The California Highway Patrol said no one was hurt.
Eastbound Highway 71 in Pomona was closed because of potholes and flooding, and a number of mountain roads were closed.
The system hit the state Friday after a large storm front moving out of the Gulf of Alaska met with subtropical, moist air coming across the Pacific Ocean.
In Kern County, officials declared an emergency after two days of intense rain, a move that provides responders with faster access to country resources. The Bakersfield Californian reported that the rains left many neighborhoods around the county dealing with high water. Some roads were closed and some homeowners stacked sandbags in hopes of staying dry.
The Los Angeles area, including downtown, Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley, received 3 inches to 4 inches of rainfall, while some northern mountain areas were hit with more than 7 inches.
Rainfall records weren't just broken, they were obliterated. The weather service said 3.45 inches of rain fell in Pasadena during three days. The old record was 1.5 inches in 1987.
The Santa Maria River briefly overran its banks Sunday and caused flooding in Guadelupe in Santa Barbara County, forcing an underdetermined number of people to leave their homes, fire officials said. The Santa Maria Times reported that the high waters began receding in the evening.
Flash-flood warnings were in effect for some areas, particularly mountain areas still scarred by recent wildfires, while flood warnings or flood advisories were issued for most of the region.
Residents of La Canada Flintridge were among those keeping a wary eye on the rain. More than 40 homes in the hillside city just north of Los Angeles were damaged or destroyed by a mudslide in February.
"We are holding up," said resident Lien Yang, who added he was warned to be prepared to evacuate. "It's coming down steady but not pouring. Therefore it doesn't cause a mud flow or flooding or anything like that. Hopefully, it's winding down and we'll have no threat this time."
One of his neighbors, Tom Smith, spent part of Sunday afternoon placing sandbags in front of his house.
The rain even made it risky for racehorses to run. Hollywood Park canceled its final seven races Sunday after rain made a section of turf leading to the main track too dangerous to navigate.
The storm uprooted numerous trees. In Woodland Hills, north of Los Angeles, a eucalyptus tree crashed onto the roof of a home, while a 40-foot tree fell onto an apartment building in Glendale. In West Hills, a downed tree crushed a car. No injuries were reported.
Soaked hillsides gave way to some minor mudslides in canyon areas and flooding in a few low-lying streets, but nothing serious, Seto said.
In Los Angeles, residents of a Bel Air Estates home had to be evacuated when a retaining wall collapsed and mud surged into the house, fire department spokesman Erik Scott said.
Rain and high winds caused substantial power outages to customers in the Santa Cruz Mountains and in the South Bay, Pacific Gas & Electric officials told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Sierra Nevada ski resorts reported up to 18 inches of fresh snow Sunday. Forecasters said the area could get similar amounts every night until Saturday.
Snow levels in Southern California were around 7,000 feet because the storm was so warm, but Tuesday night's anticipated storm will be much colder, meteorologists said, and that should allow snow at elevations as low as 5,500 feet.