Millions across Southern California are under threat of flooding that could disrupt travel ahead of the holiday weekend | CNN


An atmospheric river continued to unload a deluge of rain across Southern California Thursday, leaving roads flooded and prompting evacuations ahead of the holiday weekend.

The atmospheric river dumped more than 4 inches of rain on parts of the region from late Tuesday into early Thursday. The heaviest rain will continue through Thursday night with rainfall rates of more than 2 inches per hour, leading to flash flooding, according to the National Weather Service.

Heavy rain caused flooding in Ventura County early Thursday morning, with parts of the county under an evacuation warning until noon Friday, the VenturaCounty Sheriffs Office said.

More than 2.5 inches of rain fell in just a few hours early Thursday morning in Oxnard, the county’s largest city. This significant deluge marked at least a 1-in-500-year rainfall event for the city.

At least 60 homes were affected by flooding in Ventura County Thursday, officials said.

The county’s fire department received 275 calls in five hours overnight, more than the department’s average of 190 calls in a 24-hour period, a Ventura County Fire spokesman said. Department Andy VanSciver said in a X’s video statement.

Department crews have to prioritize calls based on severity, and at one point there were 90 calls waiting, VanSciver said.

Roads were flooded and left some vehicles stranded, calling for 12 rapid water rescues, he added.

To the west, heavy rains also left some roads under water in Santa Barbara. Several ramps leading to areas of Highway 101 were closed Thursday morning due to flooding, according to California Department of Transportation.

A flooded street is shown in front of railroad tracks during rain Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023, in Santa Barbara, Calif.  (AP Photo/Eugene Garcia)

Over much of Southern California, rainfall totals of 2 to 5 inches are likely, with another 5 to 10 inches of rain possible in and below the south-facing foothills and coastal slope, according to the weather service.

Flood watches are in effect through Thursday night for parts of the Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Palm Springs areas. In addition to the ongoing flooding in Santa Barbara, urban flash flooding is also occurring possibly in lower elevation areas closer to the Los Angeles basin.

Some of this flooding is expected to be significant and potentially life-threatening in nature, with extensive road flooding, rock and mudslides, debris flows near recent burn wounds, and significant river that floods all possibilities to Thursday, the weather service warns.

A moderate risk for excessive rainfall Level 3 of 4 also applies Thursday for parts of Southern California, including Santa Barbara and the Los Angeles metro area.

A few rumbles of thunder are also possible within the rain wave across Southern California on Thursday, but the storms are unlikely to become severe.

Earlier this week, a small tornado touched down in parts of Northern California which is a relatively rare occurrence for the state this time of year.

An EF-1 tornado was reported Tuesday night in Oroville, about 70 miles north of Sacramento, causing tree and minor structure damage, according to the National Weather Service in Sacramento.

The tornado was on land from 5:40 to 5:42 pm PT, and no injuries or deaths were reported. California gets about one December tornado on average, according to the Storm Prediction Center.

Severe weather also hit the opposite coast this week as torrential rains and severe flooding plagued parts of the Northeast.

More than 130,000 electricity customers in Maine have been without power since Monday as temperatures dropped to near or below freezing across much of the state.

The concern now is colder temperatures that present a challenge for those without power for days, Vanessa Corson, public information officer for the Maine Emergency Management Agency, said in a statement. on CNN.

Periods of stronger winds continued to affect Maine on Thursday and could slow or halt power restoration efforts, Corson added.

Many roads across the state remain closed or partially closed due to downed trees and power lines from the first week of the storm.

Revealed by Det.  Bryce Ford of the Santa Barbara, California, Police Department helped a motorist get out of his car on a flooded road during the rain.

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Holly Yan and Maria Sole Campinoti contributed to this report.

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