Powerful Storm Sweeps San Diego

Dagmar Midcap's Forecast for Friday, February 28, 2014

San Diegans were faced with rain and a wet commute Friday as the powerful storm system forecasted poured down along the coast.

The National Weather Service has issued a coastal flooding warning in effect until 1 a.m. Sunday.

San Diego lifeguards were on alert for high surf in addition to the high tide which could produce widespread minor flooding. Coastal businesses were also preparing themselves for possible flooding.

A high wind warning is in effect until 6 a.m. Saturday for the San Diego mountains with winds expected to reach 25 to 35 mph. Gusts could reach 60 mph with isolated gusts as high as 80 mph, the NWS says.  

“Today will be our most intense rainfall,” said NBC 7 Meteorologist Jodi Kodesh. “I want to say moderate rainfall with possible heavy rain Saturday.”

Whitney Southwick's Midday Forecast for Friday, Feb 28, 2014

[DGO] Whitney Southwick's Midday Forecast for Friday, Feb 28, 2014
Whitney Southwick's Midday Forecast for Friday, Feb 28, 2014

“Hang in there the next couple of days, it is going to be very active weather,” she added.

“We’re having these bands of very, very heavy rain roll through around midday. This could be thunderstorm activity,” said NBC 7 meteorologist Whitney Southwick. “We’re just scratching the surface.”

“It’s going to be about a 24 to 36-hour period of very unsettled, very unstable weather – weather we haven’t seen in a few years in San Diego,” Southwick added.

California Highway Patrol officials suggested commuters take their time driving home from work Friday and keep speeds low, with additional distance between vehicles. 

But some did not drive carefully enough. 

The California Highway Patrol reported 514 traffic crashes on San Diego County freeways between midnight and 9:30 p.m. Friday.

Around 3:30 p.m., a Sig Alert was issued for the southbound 15 freeway south of State Route 76 after a semi-truck jackknifed, and traffic was limited to two lanes. No one was injured. 

In the South Bay, flooding closed Monument Rd. and Hollister St. near their intersection, as well as Airway Rd. west of La Media. Police may block off Monument Rd. up to Dairy Mart Road if water continues to rise.

"Anywhere where there's a low-lying area were roads will typically water will pool or flood over, don't drive your car in it, don't try to cross on foot. Just find another route around it," said Sgt. Bob Albers with the San Diego Lifeguard Rescue Team.

The police department recommends people with horses in that area move their families and animals to higher ground in case heavy rain closes more streets.

On Palomar Mountain, the NWS reported just under 5 inches of rainfall by 4 p.m.

Rockslides and mudslides accompanied the downpour, but while it is messy, the rain was a welcome sight for locals.

"Obviously it make the forest quite happy. Our wells will get replenished -- not all at once -- but we're enjoying the rain," said Francisco Valdovinos with the Palomar Mountain General Store. "It's been beautiful so far, a little intense some moments."

A group of out-of-town visitors from Arizona hit the beach Friday and found themselves in need of coats and an umbrella. One visitor said it was his first time at the beach, and not exactly what he was expecting from sunny San Diego.

San Diego lifeguards said they’re prepared to handle the storm at local beaches this weekend. They had a briefing Friday morning to discuss how they can best cover the county in case of any flooding or storm damages.

“There’s a tide of 6.7 feet, so the beach areas, some of the coastal areas, we just have to make sure there’s no flooding and be prepared to deal with that if there is," said San Diego Lifeguard Capt. Nick Lerma.

"Typically, in the Mission Beach and Pacific Beach areas, we’ll have the tide combined with the inability for the water to drain, which may create flooding scenarios,” Lerma explained.

In Ventura County, officials closed a 10-mile stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway out of concern for rock slides in a burn area.

Mandatory evacuation orders were issued Thursday for about 1,000 homes in Glendora and Azusa, eastern foothill suburbs of Los Angeles that sit beneath nearly 2,000 acres of steep mountain slopes stripped by another fire in January.

Rain is also reported up through the central coast counties, in the San Francisco Bay region and in the Central Valley. Winter storm warnings are in effect in the Sierra Nevada for heavy snowfall.

California's rain totals are far below normal and it will take a series of drenching storms to make a dent in a statewide drought that is among the worst in recent history.

A high surf advisory begins on Saturday and lasts through Monday. Waves could reach 15 feet, causing coastal flooding in low areas.

Meanwhile, 140 county public works department employees will work 12-hour shifts around the clock starting Friday. The county website’s shows live streaming video of the streets that usually submerge during such weather events.

The storm should bring more than a foot of snow to the mountains.

As for flooded roads, if you can't see the asphalt, don't try to drive through it. Your car could be swept away.

Due to the heavy storm, SeaWorld San Diego announced it would be closed Friday, a disappointment for the Wursten family from Utah. All their son wanted to do for his birthday Friday was go to SeaWorld.

"They said that they hardly ever close, but that the ocean was too agitated," said Pily Wursten. "They decided to close, so they apologized and... nothing we can do about the weather."