The tail-end of a series of several El Nino-driven storms brought scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms to Southern California Thursday along with pounding surf and serious winds.
The sun even peeked out of the clouds after days of mostly steady rain had stopped cable cars in San Francisco, stranded motorists and dumped heavy snow in northern Arizona.
Damaging surf topped 16 feet in some areas, slamming against the coast – and delighting surfers in renowned spots like Mavericks. In Los Angeles County's Redondo Beach waves overtopped the breakwater and caused minor flooding in low-lying areas.
In Ventura, California, Marlyss Auster took a break Thursday from her job as director of the city tourism bureau and joined dozens of residents snapping photos of huge waves pounding the city pier, which was damaged last month by other high surf.
"The pier was holding strong," she said. "The swells were huge. Everybody was just really in awe watching them."
Ski areas celebrated a week's worth of snow, but motorists heading up the mountains were warned of icy conditions above 4,000 feet. Big Bear resort east of Los Angeles hailed more than a foot of new snow.
Voluntary evacuation advisories in some burn areas in danger of mudslides were cancelled. But authorities evacuated 10 mobile homes in the Newhall area northwest of Los Angeles as watery mud flowed into the streets from hillsides burned bare in a June fire, Los Angeles County officials said. No injuries or serious damage were reported and residents were expected to be able to return Thursday.
In San Diego County, winds were serious enough to bring a brief tornado warning Wednesday.
The state will begin drying out on Friday before another round of light rain moves in over the weekend.
Despite the potential for problems, the wet weather in California was welcome news for the state suffering from a severe drought. But officials warned residents against abandoning conservation efforts and reverting to wasteful water-use habits.
El Nino-fueled storms also brought heavy snow to northern Arizona where Grand Canyon National Park halted all shuttle bus service. Park officials said Thursday morning that South Rim roads are snow-packed and icy.
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for much of northern Arizona through midday Friday due to heavy snowfall — as much as an inch an hour. Flagstaff had 19 inches of snow on the ground as of Thursday morning.
The current El Nino system — a natural warming of the central and eastern Pacific Ocean that interacts with the atmosphere and changes weather worldwide — has tied a system in 1997-1998 as the strongest on record.