A perilous situation looms over Southern California as an intense atmospheric river unleashes heavy rain, triggering concerns of life-threatening landslides and flash flooding. Los Angeles, along with affluent areas like Montecito and Malibu, is grappling with the risk of excessive rainfall, prompting evacuation orders and raising fears of a potential economic loss exceeding $3 billion.
The National Weather Service has issued a rare “high risk of excessive rainfall” prediction for parts of Southern California, emphasizing the severity of the unfolding weather event. The heavy rainfall poses an “extremely dangerous situation,” according to the agency’s warning.
Evacuation orders have been implemented for parts of Montecito, a coastal enclave known for its high-profile residents, including Oprah Winfrey and Meghan Markle. The area, still haunted by a devastating mudslide in January 2018 that claimed 23 lives, is now facing renewed threats from heavy rainfall.
The Santa Barbara airport, serving regions like Montecito, has been forced to close due to flooding on the airfield. All commercial flights have been canceled, and private flights are on hold, adding to the disruptions caused by the intense weather.
The Los Angeles Basin, already battered by the weekend storm, is expected to experience worsening ground conditions with an additional 5 to 8 inches of rainfall forecasted by the weather service. Some communities may accumulate as much as 14 inches in total. Downtown Los Angeles saw more than 4 inches of rain on Sunday, breaking a record set in 1927.
Numerous road closures, including a stretch of the iconic Mulholland Drive, have been ordered due to mudslides, flooding, and other weather-related hazards. Landslides have damaged homes, trapping some Los Angeles drivers in their cars.
Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in eight counties as the region grapples with power outages affecting more than 480,000 customers. Schools in the Santa Barbara Unified School District have been closed due to the severe storm, while Malibu, Montecito, and parts of Los Angeles face heightened vulnerability to flooding and landslides due to their topography and construction patterns.
As Southern California confronts this weather crisis, residents and authorities remain on high alert, emphasizing the need for caution and preparedness in the face of potential hazards.