L.A. gets a bit of rain, with more on the way

Parts of Los Angeles got rain overnight, with more on the way Monday.

The meager rainfall is part of a weather pattern that is expected to bring hazardous conditions farther north starting Sunday, with forecasters warning that the western side of the Sierra Nevada could see excessive rain.

In L.A. County, the San Gabriel Mountains led the way with a scant .12 inch of rain measured at the San Gabriel Dam, said David Sweet, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard. Many coastal areas, including Leo Carrillo State Beach, got a similar soaking, while the San Gabriel Valley and downtown Los Angeles received less rain.

The storm system is expected to be followed by an atmospheric river event that will likely peak in Los Angeles around midday Monday and could dump half an inch to an inch of rain on downtown L.A., Sweet said. The atmospheric river, a concentrated stream of water vapor circulating in the middle and lower levels of the atmosphere, could result in localized flooding and roads may become slippery due to oil residue runoff, he said.

L.A. County mountains could get up to 1½ inches of rain and will likely see gusty conditions, with wind advisories possible, Sweet said.

The fall rains come as welcome relief after California reported its hottest summer on record and its driest water year in nearly a century, conditions that helped stoke a long and active wildfire season.

“It’s quite pleasant to see something normal occur,” Sweet said.

At the same time, the atmospheric river is expected to bring heavier rain and mountain snow to Northern California starting Sunday, raising fears of life-threatening flash floods and debris flows in recent burn scars. More than a foot of rain could fall in the Sierra Nevada, with up to 3 feet of snow possible in higher elevation areas through Tuesday, forecasters said.

The storm is expected to start off with warmer temperatures, with the heaviest rain in Northern California expected Sunday, said Eric Kurth, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento. That could cause flooding, as well as ash and debris flows in areas that have seen severe wildfire over the past several years, including the scars of the Caldor fire along the Highway 50 corridor and the Dixie fire along Highway 70.

“We’re very concerned about seeing just how heavy the rain could be, especially during the day Sunday,” Kurth said.

Those living near recent burn areas should be on alert for evacuation orders, he said.

Experts say the risk is particularly high because there was virtually no transition period between what’s been a severe fire season and intense precipitation. Such dramatic swings are expected by scientists to become more common as climate change warms the planet, resulting in longer, hotter periods of drought and more sporadic, intense bursts of precipitation.

The storm system is expected to bring temperatures down late Sunday, and by Monday, snow levels could drop to 5,500 feet, causing problems at passes and making travel difficult, Kurth said. Snow is expected to keep coming down into Tuesday, with high winds potentially taking down tree branches and compromising visibility by blowing snow, he said.

Although the string of storms is expected to bring the curtain down on Northern California’s severe fire season, it will not be sufficient to end the drought, Kurth said.

“We’ve been in a very dry period for two years, so I think it’s fair to say we won’t get out of the drought with one storm, even a very wet storm like this,” he said.

Still, he said, it’s the wettest start to the fall the region has seen since 2016.

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