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Intense bursts of rain threaten flooding and landslides in LA area as storm hands California its final soaking

A final round of rainfall soaked California Wednesday morning as the state grappled with road closures, evacuation warnings and water rescues from days of rain. Los Angeles and other parts of Southern California faced the most substantial risk of flooding. Here’s the latest:

Over 20 million people under flood alerts: Flash flood warnings were in effect across much of the Los Angeles basin early Wednesday morning. “Flash flooding and landslides are ongoing or expected to begin shortly,” the National Weather Service warned in the early morning hours. Flood watches will expire across the state by Wednesday afternoon as rain comes to an end.

Los Angeles eyes record rainfall: After exceptional rainfall inundated the city earlier this month, downtown Los Angeles could see its wettest February on record if it picks up just under 2 inches of rain. It’s also Santa Barbara’s second-wettest February on record.

Flooding shuts down airport and roads: Significant flooding on the tarmac of the Santa Barbara Airport forced it to close until Tuesday morning, the airport said Tuesday. There was “no major damage” and the airport resumed service. Several roads across the state are also shut down due to flooding and weather-related conditions, according to the state transportation department.

An aerial view from affiliate KGO shows a portion of California state route 84 cracked and slipping into Alameda Creek on Monday morning. - KGO
An aerial view from affiliate KGO shows a portion of California state route 84 cracked and slipping into Alameda Creek on Monday morning. - KGO

Evacuation warnings: Evacuation warnings were issued for parts of Santa Barbara County, where some high-elevation areas saw as much as 9 inches of rain in 24 hours. Local officials warned homes could become isolated if roads become blocked by flooding or debris and urged people to evacuate if they are concerned their area is becoming unsafe. An evacuation warning was also issued for a portion of southwestern Los Angeles County over mud and debris flow fears, according to the sheriff’s office.

Heavy snow building in Sierra Nevada: Winter weather alerts spanned the Sierra Nevada as snow blanketed the region. As much as 5 feet of snow could accumulate in some areas by Wednesday night, though widespread amounts of 1-2 feet are expected across high-elevation areas.

Soaked state battles flooding, mudslides

Saturated ground and swollen waterways struggled to take in the influx of water on Tuesday as rain pelted a vast portion of California, causing runoff to gush over local roads, soften soil for mudslides and cause widespread concern of flooding.

Downpours became more isolated Wednesday morning but remained a concern in Southern California as the atmospheric river that fueled the storms weakened.

A vineyard is submerged in floodwaters in Sonoma County, California, on February 19, 2024. - Chad Surmick/The Press Democrat/AP
A vineyard is submerged in floodwaters in Sonoma County, California, on February 19, 2024. - Chad Surmick/The Press Democrat/AP

People in southwest California should remain cautious of large mud and rock slides along canyon roads as well as debris flows in areas recently burned by wildfires, the weather service office in Los Angeles warned ahead of the heaviest rain.

Large boulders and chunks of debris caused the closure of westbound traffic on a portion of the Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu Monday, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office.

Debris blocks westbound lanes of the Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu, California, on February 19. - LASD Lost Hills Station via X
Debris blocks westbound lanes of the Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu, California, on February 19. - LASD Lost Hills Station via X

Two people were safely removed from a flooded vehicle in San Luis Obispo County Monday morning, according to fire officials. A photo from the scene showed a vehicle submerged to the hood in rushing floodwaters. Two more people were rescued in Sacramento County from the roof of their flooded vehicle, according to county fire officials.

In Ventura County, which was under a flash flood warning Monday, fire personnel scrambled to redirect floodwaters and prevent damage to nearby homes. Video from the county fire department showed a wide sheet of murky water rushing down one local street and into a muddy roadside channel being maintained by fire crews.

Farther north, water was running high Tuesday in the Bay Area, including San Francisco.

“Several of our streams and creeks are running high. … Never drive into flood waters,” the National Weather Service in the Bay Area said, noting Sonoma County is especially hard-hit. Sonoma County fire officials captured video of riverlike floodwaters running across a fully submerged road.

Rounds of rain will finally come to an end in California by late Wednesday as the main storm driving the soaking weather pushes eastward, crossing into the Rockies.

CNN’s Robert Shackelford, Steve Almasy, and Cheri Mossburg contributed to this report.

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