Flooding hits southwest as storms line up off California coast
Flooding caused by heavy rains hit Southern California, Arizona and Utah Wednesday. People in parts of the country accustomed to dry weather were watching the skies as rising rivers and mudslides swept away homes. The heavy rains are a result of a powerful front from the Gulf of Alaska hitting an atmospheric river of subtropical moisture coming in from eastern Asia.
Flooding in California
The latest in a series of violent storms hit southern California Wednesday morning. Streets became rivers during rush hour from Santa Barbara to San Diego. Orange County was hit hard by flooding as downtown streets in Laguna Beach were filled with mud and debris. In the community of Silverado Canyon boulders washing down steep slopes sounded like distant thunder. The National Weather Service issued flash flood warnings as rainfall of up to one inch an hour was reported. From 15 to 21 inches of rain has fallen in the San Garbriel Mountains, where walls of mud can hit mountainside communities at 35 mph.
Flooding in Arizona
Flooding in Arizona swept away five homes valued at $220,000 each in a rural area near the town of Beaver Dam in the northwestern part of the state. The flooding damaged about two dozen homes. Some were partially submerged and others had collapsed. More were expected to be washed away. The National Weather Service predicted a 100 percent chance of rain through Thursday, and the Virgin River is expected to crest early Thursday morning. Residents were being evacuated from the area, which experienced similar flooding in 2005.
Flooding in Utah
Flooding in Utah was also caused by the Virgin River. In St. George and Washington County, the normal annual precipitation is eight inches. In the past 72 hours, up to 11 inches of rain has fallen. As the flow in the Virgin River reached 15,000 cubic feet per second, a leak developed at Trees Ranch Dam. The 86-foot high dam holds back 1,900 acre-feet of water. Were it to break, the flooding downstream would affect communities as far south as Mesquite, Nev. A state of emergency was declared in southern Utah by two government entities.