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Strong autumn storm soaks San Diego area

San Diego County drying out today from a storm that broke or tied records across the region on Tuesday. KPBS reporter John Carroll says yesterday’s storm was impressive, not for how much rain fell, but how fast.

A blustery late-autumn storm drenched the San Diego area with wind-whipped downpours, delivering the first significant local rainfall in months amid flooded roadways, toppled trees and widespread power outages.

The cloudbursts began soaking the region several hours before daybreak Tuesday, starting in its northern reaches and moving rapidly south, according to the National Weather Service.

RELATED: California cleans up after powerful storm drenches state


By late afternoon, when the heaviest rains generated by the unsettled atmospheric system out of the north were tapering off, communities across the county had gotten anywhere from a few hundredths of an inch to more than 4 1/3 inches of rain, the federal agency reported.

Erik Anderson
Rain drops are seen on a car window in the Allied Gardens neighborhood of San Diego, Calif. Dec. 14, 2021.

As the gusty winds howled through the San Diego County, power outages left thousands of San Diego Gas & Electric customers without electrical service, the utility company reported.

A predawn blackout struck San Diego coastal communities, including the Midway district; Ocean Beach, Point Loma and Sunset Cliffs, leaving 3,700 customers in the dark.

In the late morning, a spate of outages left about 10,800 homes and businesses without electrical service across northern San Diego County, according to SDG&E. Affected communities included Bear Valley, Carlsbad, Daley Ranch, the Dixon Lake area, Escondido, Harmony Grove, La Costa, the Lake Hodges area, the Lake Wohlford area, Rancho Santa Fe, San Marcos and Skyline Ranch.


By 4 p.m., according to the weather service, the bands of dark clouds had dropped 4.36 inches of rain at Palomar Observatory; 2.55 on Boucher Hill; 2.33 at Henshaw Dam; 2.32 on Birch Hill; 2.26 at Rainbow Camp, near the Riverside County line; 2 inches in Skyline Ranch; 1.99 on Mount Woodson; 1.86 in Valley Center; 1.85 in Pine Hills; 1.8 in Deer Springs; 1.75 in Julian; 1.72 on Big Black Mountain and in Mesa Grande; 1.67 at Lake Cuyamaca; 1.66 in Escondido; 1.62 at Lake Wohlford; 1.45 in Fallbrook, Mission Valley and Oceanside; 1.39 in Descanso; 1.29 in Miramar; 1.27 in Carlsbad; 1.25 in La Jolla; 1.15 in Kearny Mesa and National City; 1.1 in Point Loma; 1.07 in University Heights; 1.06 in San Ysidro; and 1.05 in Encinitas and San Marcos.

Other precipitation totals included 0.99 of an inch in Alpine and Lemon Grove; 0.97 at San Diego International Airport; 0.93 at SeaWorld; 0.92 in Elfin Forest; 0.91 at Brown Field airport; 0.89 in the Granite Hills area, just east of El Cajon; 0.75 in San Onofre; 0.57 in Del Mar; 0.61 in Ranchita; 0.51 in Campo; 0.45 in Warner Springs; 0.3 in Tierra Del Sol; 0.24 in San Felipe; 0.12 in Oak Grove; 0.08 in Agua Caliente; 0.07 in Canebrake; and 0.03 in Borrego Springs.

The storm brought the first measurable rain to the county since October, when the region experienced some mild showers, weather service meteorologist Phil Gonsalves said.

The drenched roadways across the region led to a spate of traffic headaches for commuters, according to the California Highway Patrol, including a flooded stretch of freeway on state Route 94 near College Grove Drive in the Oak Park district of San Diego, shortly before 1 p.m.; large tumbleweeds in traffic lanes on state Route 905 near Interstate 805 in Otay Mesa during the noon hour; a downed tree across De Luz Road at Green Valley Road in Fallbrook, shortly before 12:30 p.m.; and an errant traffic sign on the roadway on northbound Interstate 5, north of Carlsbad Village Drive in Carlsbad in the early afternoon.

Emergency crews had to free several people from damaged vehicles following collisions on rain-drenched area freeways over the day, and rescued two people who were swept into a surging flood-control channel off Mission Center Road in Mission Valley shortly after 1 p.m., according to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.

Public works personnel had to remove fallen trees, boulders — some described as the size of cars — and wind-blown debris from roadways across the county over the day.

The precipitation became increasingly light and scattered through the evening before dwindling out completely by midnight, the weather service reported.

Light rain will be a possibility in San Diego County late Thursday into Friday, with dry and slightly warmer conditions expected to prevail through the weekend, forecasters reported.