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Fresh concerns for LA County ahead of new California atmospheric river storms

Weather officials said that overly saturated ground – a result of recent poor weather and flooding – may raise the chances of further landslides in and around LA

Mike Bedigan
Los Angeles
Thursday 15 February 2024 21:37 GMT
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Cars drive through submerged roads as 'life-threatening' flooding hits California

Weather officials say there is “concern” for Los Angeles County ahead of a new atmospheric river weather system that threatens to bring more potential destruction to the area.

The National Weather Service (NWS) Los Angeles says that overly saturated ground – a result of recent poor weather and flooding – may raise the chances of further landslides in and around LA.

California was previously battered by similar weather systems, during which nine people were killed, and billions of dollars worth of damage was incurred.

The new atmospheric river is expected to hit from Sunday through to next Tuesday, though Ryan Kittell, meteorologist for NWS Los Angeles told The Independent that details of the storm and its severity were still uncertain.

“We are looking at another slow moving storm system to impact our area mainly Sunday through Tuesday of next week,” he said. “It is an atmospheric river with a potential for moderate to heavy rainfall, but there’s a lot of details that are uncertain at this point.”

Mr Kittell said that compared with the previous storm in LA County, which saw record rainfall and over 500 mudslides, there would be “less impact”. The county saw between five and 10 inches of rain during the previous event.

The NWS said overly saturated ground may raise the chances of further landslides in and around LA (AP)

Mr Kittell said the heavy storms would make the ground “extra sensitive”.

“This event will probably be more [around] one to four inches, so significantly less,” he told The Independent.

“But the big unknown is that a lot of the ground is what we call saturated, where it’s waterlogged. It’s got as much water as it can hold because of all that rain last week.

“So it won’t take much for additional issues to occur – far less than than a typical storm needs. So even with that less rain, we could still see significant issues.

“The amount of rain last week doesn’t occur very often, but it was enough that really any additional rain will cause more mudslides and maybe even more significant landslide issues. And that’s probably the biggest concern really – any rain will be concerning.”

Previous atmospheric river storms caused destruction in Los Angeles County (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Projections from the NWS said there was a 40 to 50 per cent chances that rain would occur on Sunday,

“At this time it looks like (but is not definite) Monday will be the wettest day as the low moves further south and sets up a wet south flow pattern across the area. If this path does come to fruition it will rain almost all day long and the south facing slopes will see significant rain,” the forecaster said.

Areas such as southern Santa Barbara County are expected to see similar rainfall amounts to during the previous storms – between three and five inches. The surrounding foothills may see up to five to eight inches.

“That’s somewhat similar to what they had last week, and it did cause some flooding issues. So that’s why we’re so concerned about that,” Mr Kittell said.

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