Southern California residents got a brief Christmas Eve reprieve from a powerful winter storm that brought flash flooding, snarled traffic and prompted evacuations in some burn areas around the region.
The rain gave way to mostly sunny skies in the Los Angeles area early Friday, with scattered showers expected around the area through the afternoon. Thursday’s storm dropped more than an inch and a half of rain in downtown Los Angeles and pummeled much of Southern California.
Camarillo Airport in Ventura County reported 2.6 inches of rain Thursday, and the Santa Barbara Airport saw just over 3 inches. In Orange County, John Wayne Airport reported 1.75 inches of rain.
Some Southland areas could accumulate another quarter-inch to half an inch of rainfall throughout the day on Friday due to intermittent showers, according to the National Weather Service.
More rain and snow are headed to Southern California on Christmas Day and through next week. A new storm, though less severe, is expected to hit the region about noon on Saturday, forecasters said.
The storm will bring temperatures down to the 50s, however, dropping snow levels to as low as 3,000 feet by Sunday morning, possibly affecting the Grapevine and I-5 corridor, officials said.
“We have a big trough over the West Coast that’s going to continue to bring waves of moisture through next week,” Brandt Maxwell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Diego, said Friday. “We might not be completely precipitation-free for about a week.”
The heavy rain that battered Orange County’s canyon communities on Thursday sent mud and debris onto several major roads late Thursday night and early Friday.
The first small debris flow was reported just after 8 p.m. Thursday in Silverado Canyon, several hours after the county implemented a mandatory evacuation for areas scarred by the Bond fire last December, officials said. Several other small debris flows were reported overnight and early Friday.
“All of them were relatively minor,” said Molly Nichelson, a spokeswoman for the county.
Evacuation orders were lifted at 10 a.m. Friday for Williams Canyon and Modjeska Canyon after the rain began to dissipate in the region, and much of Silverado Canyon is now open. However, a portion of Silverado is still closed.
No injuries or rescues were reported. It is not clear if any property was damaged in the debris flow.
A flood watch issued by the National Weather Service remained in effect until noon Friday. But officials did not expect to see the same heavy downpours that drenched the county overnight.
“We’re keeping an eye on it to make sure there aren’t any additional issues,” Nichelson said. “But we don’t expect to have as much rain in the coming days as the system we just had.”
A fatal, nine-vehicle pileup was reported Friday morning on Interstate 5 near downtown Los Angeles amid the wet conditions and holiday travel.
The incident was reported just after 8 a.m. on the southbound 5. Nine vehicles, including two semitrailers, were involved. One person was killed and three others transported to local hospitals, Los Angeles Fire Department officials said.
One person was pulled from a vehicle using hydraulic tools, fire officials said.
Around 170,000 daily travelers are expected to pass through Los Angeles International Airport on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, two of the holiday season’s slowest days, before flying ramps up on Sunday.
Airport spokesman Heath Montgomery said about 17,000 fewer passengers were estimated at LAX on those days as compared to Thursday. He noted “Sunday is different,” and projected the number of visitors to swell to 200,000.
The statistics appear to be in line with an estimate of 3.5 million travelers passing through LAX between Dec. 16 and Jan. 3, 2022, according to Montgomery. “We’re on that pace,” Montgomery said. “We won’t know for sure until the end of the season, but that seems to be a pretty good number.”
Part of the crunch can be attributed to LAX’s efficiency as there were only 27 cancelations, as of 11 a.m., out of 1,028 scheduled flights.
Most of those cancelations were from United and Delta airlines, said Montgomery. The Associated Press reported the air carriers were struggling to field healthy flight crews due to the Omicron variant. About 90% of LAX’s flights were on-time and Montgomery said there “were more early flights than canceled flights” on Friday.
There were no reports of flight cancellations at John Wayne Airport in Orange County.