Rain falling in Southern California threatening areas of drought-stricken state with possibilities of flash floods | CNN (2022)

Rain falling in Southern California threatening areas of drought-stricken state with possibilities of flash floods | CNN (1)

Caltrans workers remove a fallen tree blocking transit on SR-79 between Paso Picacho Campground and Lake Cuyamaca on Friday, September 9, 2022, in San Diego, California.


Parts of Southern California were under flash flood warnings Friday as a tropical storm threatens to drop a year’s worth of rain in areas of the drought-stricken state, according to forecasters.

The warning was in effect for Riverside County and northeastern San Diego County, according to the National Weather Service. The warning includes Indio, southeastern Palm Springs and Coachella.

(Video) Rain falling in Southern California threatening areas of drought-stricken state with possibilities

“Life threatening flash flooding of creeks and streams, urban areas, highways, streets and underpasses,” is possible according to the warning.

A firefighter works at a back burn during the Fairview Fire on September 7, 2022 near Hemet, California. Mario Tama/Getty Images Fairview Fire continues 'burning in all directions on all flanks,' scorching nearly 20,000 acres, fire officials say

The extreme weather comes as Tropical Storm Kay trudges northward after making landfall Thursday in Mexico as a Category 1 hurricane. While Kay has weakened to a tropical storm, it is still packing sustained winds of 40 mph. And it is enhancing winds through mountain terrain – similar to a Santa Ana wind event – to much stronger gusts, including a 109-mph blast Friday at Cuyamaca Peak in the San Diego Mountains, the weather service reported.

As Kay’s rotating winds push warm, dry air from the east, much of Southern and Central California – already baking through a climate crisis-fueled heat wave – will stay under excessive heat warnings through 8 p.m. Friday. And concern is growing the erratic, strong winds will spread already-burning wildfires, including the Fairview Fire, which has killed two people and exploded in size this week, forcing evacuations as it’s burned more than 27,400 acres.

“With the really strong winds, we could continue to see the fires that are already burning continue to burn and spread before the rain actually gets here,” the National Weather Service in San Diego told CNN.

Rain from Kay had begun falling Friday in far Southern California, including San Diego, and far southwest Arizona, including Yuma, as flash flooding risks increase.

The weather service said in a 1:40 p.m. PT update heavy rain continued in the San Diego deserts and rain bands were pushing into Orange and Riverside counties.

Three hours later the Los Angeles office reported light rain over the LA Basin and said isolated stronger storm cells were possible during the evening commute.

(Video) Flash floods hit drought-stricken southwestern US after months of scorching heat

While the rain could quell the crushing heat – bringing relief to weary residents and power grid operators who’d prepped for rolling outages – it also could trigger debris flows, especially in places just ravaged by fire.

A flash flood warning was also in effect for southwestern Imperial County, where up to 1.5 inches of rain had fallen.

It wasn’t raining just in California. The weather service office in Flagstaff, Arizona, warned of life-threatening flash floods in Cococino County of “low-water crossings, creeks, normally dry washes and roads.” Grand Canyon National Park is included in the warning, the weather service said.

Flood watches cover more than 6 million people across Southern California, including Palm Springs, Riverside and Barstow; southern Nevada, including Las Vegas; and western Arizona, including Yuma, Lake Havasu City and Kingman.

cnnweather A hurricane that just made landfall in Mexico is triggering flood concerns in parts of southern California

And though the Western US has been plagued for months by drought, getting up to 4 inches of rain in just two days won’t deliver the sort of recovery that’s needed. Indeed, the Imperial Valley region, home to one of the nation’s most productive farm belts and suffering severe drought since early spring, is now bracing for serious damage.

“Imperial Valley farmers are in the middle of preparing their lands for the planting season, so a half an inch to 1 inch of rain will cause damage and delays to their schedule,” said Robert Schettler, a spokesperson for the Imperial Irrigation District.

While the damage Kay will leave behind is uncertain, the storm is expected to leave in its trail more moderate temperatures as it turns away from the US West Coast and pushes out into the Pacific on Saturday.

Meantime, wildfires also continue to ravage Northern California, while Oregon faces heightened fire danger as similar strong winds from the east blow in from a separate weather system.

(Video) After Weeks Of Drought, Heavy Rain And Flash Floods Hit Southwest

High temperature and rain records could fall

With triple-digit temperatures continuing Friday for much of California, record highs are expected to be set before Kay’s cool-down takes hold.

Weather officials in Los Angeles reported a temperature of 97 degrees Thursday at the Los Angeles International Airport – beating its previous record for the date of September 8, set in 1984. The city of Paso Robles, California, also beat its record for that date, with 108 degrees; its previous record of 106 was set last year.

Electric fan in-front of an unmade bed with light coming through a window brazzo/iStockphoto/Getty Images How to sleep in a heat wave, according to experts

Behind the heat, fast, heavy deluges also could rewrite record books. Two to 4 inches is expected over 36 hours on Friday and Saturday at Imperial County Airport, which on average gets 2.38 inches of rain each year. If Imperial receives more than 3 inches of rain, it will make this month its wettest September on record; the previous wettest September was in 1976.

In Palm Springs, which typically sees 4.61 inches of rain annually, 2 to 4 inches are forecast. Three inches at Palm Springs would put this month in the top three wettest Septembers for the city, where the average September rainfall is 0.24 inches.

And Yuma could see 1.5 inches – which would make 2022 the wettest September since 2009. The city’s average September rainfall is 0.68 inches.

Fire woes impact California and Oregon

Though rain no doubt would aid firefighters working to extinguish wildfires, much damage already has been done: California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday declared a state of emergency for three counties over two blazes.

Beyond the Fairview Fire, the Mosquito Fire in Northern California’s El Dorado and Placer counties has charred 29,585 acres and is 0% contained, according to InciWeb, a national wildfire clearinghouse. The fire threatens more than 3,600 structures, according to a Friday update on the website.

Evacuation orders were issued for parts of Placer County, and some residents of El Dorado County have been ordered to evacuate, officials said.

(Video) Climate change increasing chance of 'mega storm' in California, scientists say

ROME, ITALY, AUGUST 08:Tourists refresh themselves at a fountain in Piazza del Popolo, Rome, Italy, on August 08, 2022. Italy has been facing an intense heatwave for several weeks, which has pushed temperatures above the seasonal average. (Photo by Riccardo De Luca/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) Riccardo De Luca/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images First on CNN: The rise in extreme heat is taking a toll on our well-being. It's about to get worse

“Both fires are threatening multiple communities and critical infrastructure, forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents,” the governor’s office said in a statement.

Oregon, meanwhile, faces strong winds from the east that will increase fire danger across the state due to a weather system separate from Kay.

“A red flag warning … will be in effect this FRIDAY & SATURDAY, due to the expected strong east winds and low humidity. These conditions can cause rapid spread of fire,” the National Weather Service in Portland tweeted.

Wind gusts in the region are expected to range from 25 to 50 mph, according to a tweet from the weather service in Portland.

Utility companies Pacific Power and Portland General Electric announced they may proactively turn off power in some high-risk areas to reduce the risk of fire.

The outages would be implemented “in a limited, high-risk area to help reduce the risk of wildfire and to help protect people, property and the environment,” Portland General Electric said in a release. The move could impact about 30,000 customer meters in the Portland and Salem, Oregon, area, the utility said.

About 12,000 Pacific Power customers in Linn, Douglas, Lincoln, Tillamook, Marion and Polk counties have been notified of the potential shut-offs, the provider said in a statement.

CNN meteorologists Taylor Ward and Allison Chinchar, and CNN’s Christina Maxouris, Steve Almasy, Stephanie Elam, Ella Nilsen, Paradise Afshar and Chris Boyette contributed to this report.

(Video) Drought-stricken California flooded after heavy storm


What was the worst flood in California? ›

The Great Flood of 1862 was the largest recorded flood in the history of California, Nevada, and Oregon.

Will rain help with drought? ›

Soaking rains are the best medicine to alleviate drought. Water that enters the soil recharges groundwater, which in turn sustains vegetation and feeds streams during periods of no rain.

Does it rain in Southern California? ›

The normal seasonal rainfall measured at downtown Los Angeles is 14.77 inches, of which 92% falls between November 1 and April 30. While there is a great increase in rainfall in the winter months, the winter months in Los Angeles are still frequently sunny and pleasant with mild -to-warm temperatures.

Is Hurricane Kay going to hit California? ›

"It is not expected to make a direct landfall to Southern California, but it will spread its tropical moisture into the region throughout the day today into tomorrow ," FOX Weather meteorologist Jane Minar said.

What causes flooding in southern California? ›

Lowland coastal flooding is common when high tides coincide with large, storm-driven waves; tsunamis also strike occasionally. Southern California, the deserts, and areas recently burned by wildfires are susceptible to flash floods.

When was the last flood in California? ›

2017 California floods
The South Yuba River at Highway 49 floods after heavy rain on January 9, 2017. The flow is about 25,000 cubic feet per second (710 m3/s), more than 40 times the normal rate.
DateJanuary 7 – February 22, 2017
LocationCalifornia Nevada
DeathsAt least 5 directly
1 more row

Is the rain in California helping the drought? ›

Many parts of California and the West received beneficial precipitation with the storm, but it was not enough to bring substantial relief from stubborn drought conditions, according to the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor, which showed that extreme drought expanded in parts of the state.

Is 2022 a wet year in California? ›

The 2022 water year that ended on September 30th wasn't as dry as previous years but was still dry enough to extend the drought to a fourth straight year. The entire state was below-average in terms of precipitation last water year.

Will California get rain this winter 2022? ›

It won't be a winter wonderland in California this season. Mild temperatures and drier than normal conditions are expected to come to the California region, according to the Farmer's Almanac 2022-2023 Extended Winter Forecast.

What year was California underwater? ›

The region that was underwater in 1862 is now home to many more people than it was then — it's home to some of California's fastest-growing cities including Bakersfield and Sacramento. Back then, the state's population was about 500,000, but today it's nearly 40 million.

What caused the California flood of 1862? ›

This disaster wasn't an earthquake or a fire—it was an enormous flood that hit huge sections of the state. The Great Flood of 1862 was caused by a series of storms that brought more than double the normal amount of rain to California in a very short period of time.

What caused the flood of 1938 in Los Angeles? ›

The flood was caused by two Pacific storms that swept across the Los Angeles Basin in February-March 1938 and generated almost one year's worth of precipitation in just a few days.

What is meant by 100 year flood? ›

The term "100-year flood" is used to describe the recurrence interval of floods. The 100-year recurrence interval means that a flood of that magnitude has a one percent chance of occurring in any given year. In other words, the chances that a river will flow as high as the 100-year flood stage this year is 1 in 100.


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