Unprecedented rainfall in San Diego causes historic flooding and power outages, U.S.

Unprecedented rainfall in San Diego causes historic flooding and power outages, U.S.

San Diego, California was hit by record-breaking rainfall on January 22, 2024, causing widespread flooding, major road closures, and power cuts. Emergency services conducted multiple rescues, and Mayor Todd Gloria declared a state of emergency.

Parts of California were hit by very heavy rainfall on January 22, producing floods that forced first responders to rescue people trapped and landslides that shut down roads.

The San Diego area was the hardest hit, with rainfall amounts ranging between 50 and 100 mm (2 – 4 inches) in just three hours. This intense downpour, almost double the region’s average January rainfall, inundated the city, setting a new record for San Diego’s wettest January day since records began in 1850, said Casey Oswant, a National Weather Service meteorologist in San Diego.

The San Diego International Airport recorded 68.58 mm (2.7 inches) of rainfall, surpassing the previous wettest January day on record for San Diego, which was 65.27 mm (2.57 inches) set on January 31, 1979

Preliminary rainfall data also place yesterday’s rainfall in San Diego as the fifth wettest on record, regardless of the time of year.

LOCATIONNEW RECORDOLD RECORD/YEARPERIOD OF RECORD
SAN DIEGO68.58 mm (2.70 inches)38.86 mm (1.53 inches) / 19671875
OCEANSIDE HARBOR53.34 mm (2.10 inches)24.89 mm (0.98 inches) / 20101910
VISTA45.72 mm (1.80 inches)27.43 mm (1.08 inches) / 20101957
CHULA VISTA39.62 mm (1.56 inches)29.21 mm (1.15 inches) / 20101918
RAMONA38.86 mm (1.53 inches)29.97 mm (1.18 inches) / 20171974
ALPINE52.83 mm (2.08 inches)21.59 mm (0.85 inches) / 19961951
EL CAJON69.60 mm (2.74 inches)63.50 mm (2.48 inches) / 19091899
CAMPO81.79 mm (3.22 inches)42.67 mm (1.68 inches) /20101948
THERMAL22.61 mm (0.89 inches)6.35 mm (0.25 inches) / 20101950
Daily precipitation records broken or tied on January 22, 2024. Preliminary data reported by National Weather Service, San Diego, CA at 20:00 PST on January 22, 2024 (04:00 UTC, January 23).

In response to the emergency, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria declared a state of emergency on Monday afternoon, advising residents to avoid flooded areas and unnecessary travel. The American Red Cross opened an evacuation center at Lincoln High School.

Mónica Muñoz, a spokesperson for the San Diego Fire Department, reported at least 24 rescue operations, including individuals caught in the rain and motorists trapped in their vehicles. Additionally, a U.S. Border Patrol agent noted that a team of agents assisted firefighters in rescuing eight migrants along the border.

In the Southcrest neighborhood, hundreds of people were rescued from residences on Beta Street, with reports of water entering houses starting around 11:00 LT. Muñoz described the rescue efforts, which involved inflatable boats and rescue boards to evacuate people from their flooded homes.

The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System had to shut down its downtown trolley service and suspend many bus routes. As a precaution, the transit system advised residents against non-essential travel.

By Monday afternoon (LT), the banks of the San Diego River in the Mission Valley neighborhood had overflowed, exacerbating the flooding. Forecasters issued a flash flood warning through midnight for the area around the Fashion Valley shopping mall in Mission Valley. Additionally, a flood watch remained in effect until 21:00 LT Monday for much of the region south and west of Los Angeles County.

Over 9 000 San Diego homes and businesses found themselves without power, with San Diego Gas & Electric’s outage maps indicating widespread disruptions and projecting service restoration not likely until late Monday evening. As of 02:00 LT (09:00 UTC) on January 23, more than 8 600 customers in California were still without power, with 4 710 in the San Diego area.

Evacuation warnings were issued for the Topanga Canyon area in Los Angeles County, effective until 06:00 local time on Tuesday, January 23. Authorities cautioned residents about potential debris flows in areas previously affected by wildfires.

Fortunately, as of Monday evening, no fatalities had been reported. However, three people from the San Diego area were transported to hospitals with injuries of unknown severity.

Southern California residents can anticipate relief from the rain by late Tuesday, January 23. Showers, including snow showers in the mountains, may persist early on Tuesday throughout much of the region. However, most areas are expected to experience sunny skies later in the day.

References:

1 Rain soaks L.A. but shocks San Diego as deluge leads to hundreds of rescues amid flooding – Los Angeles Times – January 22, 2024

2 California Rainfall Prompts Flooding, Landslides, Rescues, Evacuation Warnings – TWC – January 22, 2024

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