Historic storm sends debris through L.A.'s Hollywood Hills and leaves 1.1 million without power

Monday, February 5, 2024
Historic storm sends debris through L.A.'s Hollywood Hills
A storm of historic proportions unleashed record levels of rain over parts of Los Angeles on Monday, sending mud and boulders down hillsides dotted with multimillion-dollar homes.

A storm of historic proportions unleashed record levels of rain over parts of Los Angeles on Monday, sending mud and boulders down hillsides dotted with multimillion-dollar homes, posing grave dangers for the city's large homeless population and knocking out power for more than a million people in California.

The storm was the second one fueled by an atmospheric river to hit the state over the span of days. About 1.4 million people in the Los Angeles area, including the Hollywood Hills and Beverly Hills, were under a flash flood warning Monday morning. Up to 9 inches (23 centimeters) of rain had already fallen in the area, with more expected, according to the National Weather Service, which called the flash flooding and threat of mudslides "a particularly dangerous situation."

Already crews were rescuing people from swift-moving water in various parts of Southern California.

Gushing rivers carried mud, rocks and objects from people's multimillion-dollar homes, including coolers, ladders and plastic crates, in Studio City, an area named after a movie studio lot, on the backside of the Hollywood Hills. Several homes were damaged, including one with a crumpled garage door from the debris slide.

A text late Sunday alerted Keki Mingus that a neighbor's house at the top of a hill was in trouble.

"Mud, rocks and water came rushing down through their house and another neighbor's house and into our street," Mingus said as water continued to rush down the road around dawn on Monday. "I can't believe it. It looks like a river that's been here for years. I've never seen anything like it."

A record 4.1 inches (10.41 centimeters) of rain fell Sunday in downtown Los Angeles, blowing past the previous record of 2.55 inches (6.48 centimeters) set in 1927, the National Weather Service said.

A man carrying an umbrella stands perched above a flooded street in Ventura, Calif., Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024.
A man carrying an umbrella stands perched above a flooded street in Ventura, Calif., Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024.
(AP Photo/Eugene Garcia)

That didn't stop the Grammy Awards on Sunday night from continuing as planned at downtown's Crypto.com Arena.

The weather service forecast up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) of rainfall across Southern California's coastal and valley areas, with 14 inches (35 centimeters) possible in the foothills and mountains over the next two days.

More than 474,061 homes, businesses or other locations were without electricity statewide on Monday morning, according to poweroutage.us. Commuters stepped through several inches of floodwater as they rushed to catch trains at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles.

The havoc on Monday in Southern California came after the storm over the weekend inundated streets and brought down trees and electrical lines throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, where winds topped 60 mph (96 kph) in some areas. Gusts exceeding 80 mph (128 kph) were recorded in the mountains.

Just to the south in San Jose, emergency crews pulled occupants out of the windows of a car that was stranded by flooding and rescued people from a homeless encampment alongside a rising river.

In Yuba City, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco, police said they were investigating the death of a man found under a big redwood tree in his backyard Sunday evening. A neighbor heard the tree fall, and it was possible the man was using a ladder to try and clear the redwood when he was killed, police said on Facebook.

How much rain did the storm drop in Southern California? Los Angeles saw a record-setting amount.

The weather service issued a rare "hurricane force wind warning" for the Central Coast, with wind gusts of up to 92 mph (148 kph) possible from the Monterey Peninsula to the northern section of San Luis Obispo County.

The storm then moved into Southern California, where officials warned of potentially devastating flooding and ordered evacuations for canyons that burned in recent wildfires and that are at high risk for mud and debris flows.

Nineteen people were rescued Sunday in Long Beach after the 40-foot sailboat they were traveling in lost its mast, said Brian Fisk, a firefighter and paramedic for the Long Beach Fire Department.

Another vessel heard the distress call on the marine radio and helped rescue eight people while 11 were able to get onto the rocky breakwater by Alamitos Bay where they were rescued by lifeguards, he said. One person was treated for injuries.

"They went out sailing in gale-force winds and stormy weather," Fisk said. "They're very, very lucky."

Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. The Governor's Office of Emergency Services activated its operations center and positioned personnel and equipment in areas most at risk.

Evacuation orders were issued in many parts, stretching from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles Counties where emergency shelters were in place.

The Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation's second largest, said its schools would be open Monday, with the exception of Topanga Elementary Charter School and Vinedale College Preparatory Academy.

But classes were canceled Monday for schools throughout Santa Barbara County, where numerous streets were flooded Sunday. The area in 2018 was devastated by deadly mudslides.

Palisades Tahoe, a ski resort about 200 miles (320 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco, said Sunday it was anticipating the heaviest snowfall yet this season, with accumulations of 6 inches (15 centimeters) per hour for a total of up to two feet (60 centimeters). Heavy snow was expected into Monday throughout the Sierra Nevada and motorists were urged to avoid mountain roads.

Much of the state had been drying out from the initial atmospheric river-powered storm that blew in last week. Atmospheric rivers are relatively narrow plumes of moisture that form over an ocean and can produce torrential amounts of rain as they move over land.

Both atmospheric rivers were called a "Pineapple Express" because the plume of moisture stretches back across the Pacific to near Hawaii.

"We've had flooding. We've had gusty winds," said Todd Hall, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service near Los Angeles. "We've had the whole gamut here."


Watson reported from San Diego and Amy Taxin in Orange County contributed to this report.