Thursday, January 21, 2010
Relentless downpours and powerful winds pounded the San Diego area for a fourth straight day today, flooding roads, toppling trees, shutting down schools, canceling airline flights and causing the first weather- related closure at SeaWorld in 12 years.
The storm, the fourth to douse the county this workweek, brought some of the most severely inclement conditions since the spell of blustery weather began Monday.
The cloudbursts made roadways impassible throughout the region, and heavy gusts caused power outages that left more than 14,000 homes and businesses without electrical service at one point during the morning.
Due to the high winds, Southwest Airlines suspended its operations at Lindbergh Field. In the late morning, more than 65 of the carrier's flights had been canceled until further notice.
SeaWorld, meanwhile, closed its gates to the public due to the squalls, the first time the aquatic attraction had done so since 1998, park spokesman Dave Koontz said.
Legoland was also closed due to the inclement weather.
Campuses shuttered this morning because of power outages included Grossmont High in La Mesa, Loma Portal Elementary in San Diego and Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a private Catholic school in San Ysidro.
This week's storms contributed to at least one death in the county. On Tuesday, Flinn Springs resident Linda Flick, 58, was crushed to death when a tree roughly 10 feet in diameter buckled under strong wind gusts and fell onto her mobile home.
The nasty weather also has wreaked havoc on local roadways throughout the workweek, with the California Highway Patrol receiving hundreds of accident reports since Monday.
More than 100,000 residences and businesses in the county have lost power since the storms began, according to San Diego Gas & Electric. As of 11:30 this morning, roughly 3,775 SDG&E customers were without service, down from about 14,300 four hours earlier, the utility reported.
The morning's biggest outage was in the Chula Vista area, where some 5,000 addresses were affected. Other significant outages included about 2,500 in the La Mesa area, nearly 1,300 in Imperial Beach and roughly 1,100 in Ramona.
The weeklong spate of strong winter storms could generate a total of four to eight inches of rain near the coast and 15 to 30 inches on coastal mountain slopes, according to the National Weather Service. Desert areas are likely to receive between 2 and 4 inches, forecasters said.
Over a six-hour period ending at 11 this morning, the storm dropped 2.98 inches of precipitation at Mount Palomar; 2.19 at Mount Laguna; 1.44 at Lake Henshaw; 1.03 in Ranchita; 0.96 in Santa Ysabel; 0.95 at Lake Wohlford; 0.55 in Ramona; 0.54 in Fallbrook; 0.52 in Dulzura; 0.5 at McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad; 0.42 in Oceanside; 0.38 in La Mesa; 0.36 in Encinitas; 0.3 at Brown Field airport; 0.2 in Kearny Mesa; and 0.13 in downtown San Diego.
According to the weather service, periods of heavy rain, strong gusty winds and snow in the mountains above 4,500 feet are likely through Tuesday. Rainfall totals of two to three inches is expected for lower elevations through Friday, NWS forecasters said.
There will also be isolated thunderstorms with the potential to produce tornadoes, according to the agency.
A flash flood watch for coast, valley and mountain areas below 6,500 feet was scheduled to be in effect through this evening. A coastal flood watch also will be in force through Friday afternoon.
The potential for coastal flooding results from a combination of high surf with 15- to 20-foot breakers, strong south-to-southwest winds with gusts greater than 50 miles per hour, overland runoff from heavy rains, and high tides just under 5 feet, according to the Weather Service. The agency issued a high surf advisory effective through late Sunday morning.
Forecasters said even the strongest swimmers should stay out of the water, and boaters were urged to avoid launching. A small craft advisory is in effect from San Mateo Point to the Mexican border through late Saturday night, and a gale watch will be active through late tonight.