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Public Safety

Strong winter storm soaks San Diego area

Flooding is seen in Fashion Valley on Feb. 6, 2024. San Diego, Calif.
Carlos Castillo
/
KPBS
Flooding is seen in Fashion Valley on Feb. 6, 2024. San Diego, Calif.

Go to storm resources ⬇

The latest in a series of strong winter storms brought more heavy rainfall and resulting traffic headaches to the already waterlogged San Diego area today.

The unsettled atmospheric system, which moved over the county on Sunday, delivered widespread and steady showers on day three of what is expected to be a considerably wet week, according to the National Weather Service.

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This past weekend, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in Southern California due to the predicted severity of the storm, which so far has been significantly more intense in areas north of San Diego County. The proclamation includes provisions authorizing a California National Guard response if needed, facilitating unemployment benefits for impacted residents and making it easier for out-of-state contractors and utilities to repair weather-related damage.

In the late morning Tuesday, sightings of spiraling clouds in the sky heading northeast over Chula Vista prompted the National Weather Service to issue a tornado warning — a local rarity — for parts of the South Bay and East County. As of 12:45 p.m., when the advisory expired, there were no reports of any twisters touching ground, according to the federal agency.

San Diego Gas & Electric, for its part, increased the number of field crews and equipment available "to restore power as quickly and safely as possible should power outages occur," the utility company advised.

Rain totals

Over a three-day period ending late Tuesday morning, the dark bands of clouds had dropped anywhere from a few hundredths of an inch to nearly seven inches of moisture across the San Diego region, the weather service reported.

Among the 72-hour precipitation totals in the county, according to the NWS, were 6.61 inches in San Onofre; 4.6 at Camp Pendleton; 4.06 at Palomar Observatory; 3.36 in Fallbrook; 3.17 in Oceanside; 2.81 in Bonsall; 2.75 at Rainbow Camp; 2.7 on Birch Hill; 2.54 in Carlsbad; 2.25 in Vista; 2.17 in National City; 2.11 in Valley Center; and 2.09 in Deer Springs.

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The three-day rainfall tallies also included 1.97 inches at Lake Wohlford; 1.95 at Skyline Ranch; 1.92 in Escondido; 1.84 in Santee; 1.79 on Mount Woodson; 1.75 at Miramar Lake; 1.72 in Poway; 1.71 in Point Loma; 1.66 in La Mesa and at San Diego International Airport; 1.61 in Kearny Mesa; 1.58 in Mission Valley; 1.55 in Ramona and Rancho Bernardo; 1.54 at North Island Naval Air Station; 1.53 at Montgomery Field airport; 1.51 in Flinn Springs; 1.5 in Granite Hills; 1.41 in Harbison Canyon; 1.37 in San Diego Country Estates; 1.33 on Otay Mountain; 1.31 in Barona; and 1.05 in Alpine.

Other tallies as of 11 a.m. were 0.92 on Mount Laguna; 0.87 in Chula Vista; 0.88 in Descanso and Julian; 0.86 on Mount Laguna; 0.79 in Julian; 0.75 in Warner Springs; 0.63 in Pine Valley; 0.62 on Volcan Mountain; 0.53 in Campo; 0.42 in Ranchita; 0.28 in Tierra Del Sol; 0.21 in Ranchita; 0.10 in Borrego Springs; 0.08 in Ocotillo Wells; and 0.04 in Agua Caliente.

Though the storm was expected to bring snowfall to the San Diego County highlands, none had been reported as of midday Tuesday.

Road closures

As it did on Monday and late last month, the rain led to road closures across the region on Tuesday.

Over the morning and early afternoon, the San Diego Police Department reported that the following streets were shut down due to flooding: 4300 Alamo Avenue; the intersection of Carmel Mountain Road and Sorrento Valley Road; 6000 Carroll Road; the intersection of Dunhill and Roselle streets; 3800 Estuary Way; 4300 Euclid Avenue; Fiesta Island Drive; 2000 Hollister Street; the intersection of Kelton Place and Kelton Road; Monroe Avenue from Bancroft Street to 33rd Street; the intersection of Orange Avenue and 39th Street; 11100 Roselle Street; 14200 San Dieguito Road; state Route 94 westbound at 28th Street; 1600 South 42nd Street; 1800 Sunset Cliffs Boulevard; and Trojan Avenue at 52nd Street.

Freeway closures, according to the California Highway Patrol included northbound Interstate 5 at SR-76 in Oceanside; and, in the Camp Pendleton area, northbound I-5 north of Harbor Drive and southbound I-5 north of Vista Point.

The downpours also prompted a closure of SeaWorld San Diego pending the return of more temperate weather.

Looking ahead

An NWS flood watch will be in effect until 10 a.m. Wednesday for the city of San Diego as well as the communities of Borrego Springs, Carlsbad, Chula Vista, El Cajon, Encinitas, Escondido, Julian, La Mesa, National City, Oceanside, Pine Valley, Poway, San Marcos, Santee and Vista. Excessive runoff could result in flooding of rivers, creeks, streams and other low-lying locations, meteorologists advised.

Forecasters also warned of the likelihood that strong winds — from 15 to 25 mph and gusts up to 35 mph in some places — could blow away unsecured outdoor objects, snap off tree limbs and cause power outages.

Additionally, a high-surf advisory was slated to be in effect until 10 p.m. Monday, with ocean breakers from 6 to 8 feet high and sets up to 10 feet, along with a small-craft advisory from San Mateo Point to the Mexican border.

South to southeast winds will increase in intensity over the day Monday, with gusts from 25 to 30 knots, the weather service advised. The high-surf conditions are expected to decrease overnight and Tuesday.

Safety tips for driving during storms

— Avoid driving through deep water;
— Avoid oversteering or stomping on the brakes if you start to hydroplane or skid;
— Avoid texting or using a hand-held cell phone when driving;
— Slow down to avoid getting into an accident;
— Turn on your headlights to see better;
— Try to drive toward the middle lanes as water tends to gather in outside lanes;
— Defog your windows for better visibility;
— Never drive through a flooded roadway;
— Give the cars in front of you extra distance;
— Watch out for public works crews and equipment.

Source: San Diego County Office of Emergency Services and Department of Public Works

Partly cloudy and rainy conditions are expected in the mountains until midweek, with highs in the low 50s. Cloudy and wet conditions are expected in the deserts all week, with highs reaching the upper 50s and low 60s, according to the National Weather Service.

Along the coast, partly cloudy and wet conditions are expected this week, with daytime temperatures hitting the low 60s. Inland valley areas are expected to be hit with showers through Friday, with highs reaching the mid-50s to low 60s.

If you need help ...

Due to potential harsh weather conditions, an emergency shelter at 2111 Pan American Plaza is open to the public and can be reached at 619-525- 8262. Services at the shelter will include places for displaced people to stay, meals, snacks, crisis counseling, help replacing medication and pet support from the San Diego Humane Society.

Alert San Diego has provided residents with all other information regarding flooding and can be found at the following links:

Residents can also text HELP to 98266 to get safety information.

The United Taxi Workers of San Diego is helping impacted residents get to the temporary shelter at no charge. To schedule a ride customers can call 619-280-4444 or use the "Ride United" passenger application. Residents seeking services should provide a pick-up location and select "Balboa Park Municipal Gym" or "Mountain View Community Recreation Center" as their drop- off location, county officials said.

A temporary homeless shelter has been set up at the Balboa Park Activity Center at 16th Street and Newton Bridge Shelter.

The Department of Public Works is picking up flood-damaged debris and items from homes in the unincorporated communities. Pickup in unincorporated areas can be reached at 858-495-5700. Additional storm recovery resources can be reached by dialing 211.

The county advised against putting debris near curbs during rainy weather, where it can wash away and cause a hazard.

Previous storms

This week's storm comes after a spate of historically heavy downpours that left roadways, commercial districts and residential neighborhoods underwater across the region two weeks ago. The wettest day, Jan. 22, delivered the highest 24-hour rainfall amounts in San Diego since 1850, according to the NWS.

The inundation, which washed away many a parked car and heavily damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes, prompted the city and county of San Diego, along with Newsom, to declare states of emergency.

Since then, authorities have been taking steps, including monitoring tens of thousands of storm drains, to prevent more storm-driven destruction, Mayor Todd Gloria said during a recent news briefing. He urged those who live or work in flood-prone areas to remain proactively vigilant as well.

"Now is not the time to remove your sandbags," the mayor said. "We can't predict Mother Nature. She's unpredictable."

The city and the San Diego Housing Commission have opened a new 50- room shelter at a former hotel site in the Midway district to provide a refuge from those impact the recent storms.

"Providing shelter and support for our neighbors whose lives were upended by the storm is a top priority," City Council President Sean Elo- Rivera said. "These creative options were possible through collaboration between the city, county, the Housing Commission and state of California. The road ahead of us is long, but this quick and meaningful action shows that we can create creative housing solutions when we all work together."

The county's Assessor's Office, Public Health, Behavioral Health, Public Works and Department of Environmental Health and Quality will be at the City Assistance Center to provide services to those impacted by the storms.

KPBS has created a public safety coverage policy to guide decisions on what stories we prioritize, as well as whose narratives we need to include to tell complete stories that best serve our audiences. This policy was shaped through months of training with the Poynter Institute and feedback from the community. You can read the full policy here.