San Diego

Spring's 1st Storm Brings Heavy Rain, High Winds, Flood Watches for San Diego County

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The 12th atmospheric river of the wet season was dumping inches of rain on San Diego County Tuesday -- flooding roads, creating sinkholes and causing power outages -- and the storm showed no signs of letting up over the coming days.

The powerful, cold storm prompted a severe thunderstorm warning for San Diego, El Cajon and Chula Vista until 11:15 a.m. Tuesday, the National Weather Service (NWS) said. The warning meant severe weather is happening or is imminent and residents in the area should take shelter.

The rare-for-San-Diego warning was issued during what was expected to be the most powerful portion of the storm but another bout of rain was expected Tuesday night into Wednesday, NBC 7 Meteorologist Sheena Parveen said.

High winds, choppy waves at Oceanside Pier and more made for dangerous travel conditions in North County, NBC 7's Dave Summers reports.

San Diego County Weather Tuesday Night into Wednesday Morning

Heavy rains will start pouring Tuesday night from 6 p.m. to midnight for San Diegans living on the coast, valleys and mountains, according to the National Weather Service of San Diego.

Those living in the high and lower deserts will experience moderate rain 6 p.m. to midnight Tuesday.

Showers will taper off going into Wednesday from midnight to 6 a.m. into a moderate rain for the coast, valleys and mountains. For the high and lower deserts, moderate rain will turn into light rain showers.

Mountain dwellers, get ready for heavy snow from midnight to 6 a.m. Wednesday.

Winds of up to 40 mph and pea-sized hail was possible until 10:45 p.m. Tuesday in Santee, Poway and Lakeside, the NWS announced on Twitter around 10 p.m. that night.

The gushing water is trapping folks who live on the other side, NBC 7's Jeanette Quezada reports.

Now, San Diego is bracing for a flood warning that will be in effect Tuesday evening through Wednesday morning, according to NWS. The agency is warning residents and businesses near the San Diego River -- including Fashion Valley -- of minor flooding.

Mission Valley commuters say they woke up feeling trapped, NBC 7's Shandel Menezes reports.

Drivers who encounter flooding are encouraged to turn around and refrain from trying to drive through flooded areas. "Most flood deaths occur in vehicles," NWS warned. The following roads are most likely to be impacted by the advisory, according to the agency:

  • Fashion Valley Road
  • Avenida Del Rio
  • Camino Del Este
  • Camino de la Reina
  • Mission Center Road

Although the beginning and end of the day will be wet, the region is got a brief break from the inclement weather for a few hours this afternoon. There may even be a glimmer of sunshine.

Despite the severe weather, some folks were still out by the Oceanside Pier, NBC 7's Dave Summers reports.
Tides were so swelled, most South Bay beaches were soaked, NBC 7's Joe Little reports.

Don't expect a larger break from the storm until Thursday. Showers will continue overnight into Wednesday and there may even be some thunderstorms, Parveen said.

Here's what else to know:

Watches and Warnings

In wake of yet another passing storm, the city of San Diego has shut down several roads in Mission Valley as residents anticipate flooding. NBC 7’s Brooke Martell has more information for you.

The following watches and warnings were in effect as of Tuesday morning, according to the National Weather Service:

  • Flood Watch: Now through Wednesday evening in coastal areas.
    • Excessive runoff could flood rivers, creeks, streams and flood-prone areas. The NWS forecasts .6 inches of rain per hour in some areas.
  • High Wind Warning: Now to 10 p.m. Tuesday in coastal areas.
    • 25- to 35-mph winds with 45- to 55-mph gusts expected
  • Airport Weather Warning: Now to 11 p.m. Tuesday at SAN
    • The NWS issues this warning when weather is likely to impact airport operations
  • High Surf Advisory: 2 a.m. Wednesday to 9 p.m. Thursday at the coast
    • Waves between 4 and 8 feet, sets up to 12 feet.
  • Severe Thunderstorm Warning: Was issued from 10:30 to 11:15 a.m. for portions of San Diego County
While this storm comes on the first day of spring, it will still be a winter storm because there will be winter precipitation in the mountains by the end of it, NBC 7's Shandel Menezes reports.

Road Closures

Anticipating issues at flood-prone river crossings, the city of San Diego preemptively closed several roads in the Mission Valley area. The city has not said when the closures will be lifted:

  • Camino De La Reina at Camino De La Siesta (westbound).
  • Camino De La Reina west of Avenida Del Rio (eastbound).
  • San Diego Mission Road between Fairmount and Caminito Yucatan (eastbound and westbound).
  • Qualcomm Way and Rio San Diego Drive (southbound only).
  • Mission Center Road between Hazard Center Drive and Camino De La Reina (northbound).
  • Ward Road at Camino Del Rio N (southbound).
  • Camino Del Este between Station Village Drive and Camino De La Reina (northbound).
  • Camino Del Este between Station Village Drive and Camino De La Reina (southbound).

Find more road closures here.

Rainfall Totals

Atmospheric rivers are long, powerful portions of the atmosphere that carry lots of water from the tropical regions near the Earth's equator toward the poles. The first drops of rain produced by the system fell overnight Sunday.

Track the latest rainfall totals here or in the story below:

Snowfall levels are expected to fall to about 4,000 feet overnight Tuesday. By Wednesday night, Palomar Mountain could see more than a foot of snow and Mount Laguna could see between 8 to 12 inches.

Preparedness

San Diego Gas & Electric said it's increasing the number of crews available to deal with any power outages that occur during the storm. The agency urges customers to have a plan in place in case of outages. They also warn residents to stay away from any downed power lines and call 911 or SDG&E at (800) 411-7343 to report them.

Cal Fire's Swift Water Rescue teams are also on standby to respond to San Diegans who find themselves stranded in flood zones.

NBC 7's Dave Summers spoke with a Cal Fire captain about water rescue teams preparing for San Diego's next storm.

Weeks of rainstorms that have had sunny San Diego looking more like Seattle left the ground saturated, meaning new rainfall won't be absorbed.

"... most of it is going to be shed into our low-lying areas," Cal Fire Capt. Michael Cornette said.

Flooded waterways are full of debris and are dangerous for anyone caught in the current.

"We don’t know what is coming down the stream — if there is more water coming, if it’s a flash flood situation, we don’t know if there is a big log or tree branch," Cornette explained.

Cornette wants drivers to remember that just 6 inches of water is enough to move a car, and if you do find yourself in a current strong enough to move your car, it'll likely sweep you away if you were to exit your vehicle.

Cal Fire will have two rescue crews on standby until the threat subsides.

Tuesday doesn't mark the end of these wet conditions. According to Parveen, showers will linger for Wednesday and Thursday may have some scattered rain.

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