Flooding, landslides as atmospheric river departs California
Patrick Cerruti assesses damage of his daughter's flooded laundry mat, Pajaro Coin Laundry, on Salinas Road in Pajaro, Calif. on Tuesday, March 14, 2023. A levee failure prompted overnight evacuations on Friday, March 10, and into the next day.(Brontë Wittpenn/San Francisco Chronicle via AP)
By JOHN ANTCZAK
LOS ANGELES — Southern California residents weary of a storm-soaked winter were hit Wednesday by parting shots from the season’s 11th atmospheric river, which flooded roadways, caused mudslides and toppled trees throughout the state.
Hollywood stars splashed down a rain-soaked red carpet Tuesday at the premiere of “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” in Los Angeles, where rainfall totals are double the normal average.
The film's stars including Zachary Levi, Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu and Rachel Zegler tip-toed along the saturated rug as they unsuccessfully tried to stay dry.
“My feet are wet," said Zegler. “I’m a little bit bummed, I’m not gonna lie.”
Water, mud and rocks were reported on many roads, along with potholes that disabled numerous cars. Flooding closed several miles of Pacific Coast Highway through Huntington Beach, south of Los Angeles on the Orange County coast.
The National Weather Service said the 23.99 inches (61 centimeters) of rain recorded so far this water year in downtown Los Angeles make this the 14th wettest in more than 140 years of records.
Remaining showers across Southern California were expected to decrease through Wednesday and end by evening, forecasters said.
Weather in northern and central sections of the state dried out earlier following Tuesday’s heavy rain and fierce winds that blew out windows on a San Francisco high-rise and gusted to 74 mph (119 kph) at the city’s airport.
More than 187,000 utility customers statewide remained without power early Wednesday, according to PowerOutage.us.
California’s latest atmospheric river was one of two storm systems that bookended the U.S. this week. Parts of New England and New York were digging out of a nor’easter Wednesday that caused tens of thousands of power outages, numerous school cancellations and whiteout conditions on roads.
Despite California’s rains winding down, flood warnings remained in effect on the central coast for the Salinas and Pajaro rivers in Monterey County and other rivers in the Central Valley as water runs off from land saturated by storms since late December.
Runoff from a powerful atmospheric river last week had burst a levee on the Pajaro River, triggering evacuation orders for about 8,500 people as water flooded farmland and agricultural communities.
The first phase of repairs on the 400-foot (120-meter) breach were completed Tuesday afternoon and crews were working to raise the section to full levee height, county officials said.
California was deep in drought before an unexpected series of atmospheric rivers barreled into the state from late December through mid-January, causing flooding while building a staggering snowpack in the Sierra Nevada.
Storms powered by arctic air followed in February, creating blizzard conditions that buried mountain communities in so much snow that structures began collapsing.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday issued emergency declarations for three more counties, raising the total to 43 of the state's 58 counties.
The water content of the Sierra snowpack is now more than 200% of the April 1 average, when it normally peaks, according to the state Department of Water Resources.
The weather service said California will see minor precipitation this weekend, followed by another substantial storm next week.
AP Photojournalist Krysta Fauria contributed to this report.