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How Emergency Unfolds as Southern California Cities Evacuated Amid Unprecedented Downpours

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A remarkable and slow-moving Pacific storm has unleashed havoc in Southern California, leading to widespread evacuations in coastal cities and beach towns. Streets have been transformed into waterlogged zones as historic downpours prompt urgent rescue operations and flood-related chaos. The cities of Oxnard and Port Hueneme, situated in Ventura County west of Los Angeles, issued evacuation orders for coastal areas, underscoring the severity of the situation. Emergency shelters have been opened to accommodate residents forced to flee their homes, with the Oxnard Fire Department and police actively engaged in water rescues.

Port Hueneme, in particular, bore the brunt of the storm’s impact, witnessing the evacuation of approximately 60 homes in a senior community overnight. City officials are diligently working to address the aftermath, including clearing drains and assessing the extent of the damage caused by the relentless rainfall. According to Port Hueneme City Manager James Vega, the drainage system was overwhelmed due to the rapid and massive influx of rain.

Climate scientist Daniel Swain from the University of California, Los Angeles, characterized the storm as “genuinely dramatic.” Particularly in Oxnard, preliminary data indicates that the downpours experienced were possibly the heaviest ever observed in that part of Southern California. The National Weather Service emphasized the extraordinary nature of the event, stating that the frequency of such occurrences is on the order of once in every thousand years.

As of the latest updates, at least 2-6 inches of rain have already fallen over Ventura County, with an additional 1-4 inches expected by the afternoon. Meteorologists are cautioning against the heightened risk of rock and mudslides on canyon and mountain roads, potentially leading to significant travel delays. Ariel Cohen, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s office in Oxnard, highlighted the significant rainfall rates, reaching as high as 3 inches per hour early Thursday.

The storm’s impact is far-reaching, with a flood watch in effect for approximately 27 million people, encompassing much of the Los Angeles and San Diego metro areas. The unpredictability of the storm has raised concerns about its lasting effects, prompting weather authorities to issue advisories for potential flash floods and urging residents in specific areas, such as south Santa Barbara County, to move to higher ground and avoid driving through floodwaters.

Los Angeles, bracing for the storm’s intensification through the evening, is expected to face heavy rainfall and strong winds. Coastal regions in Los Angeles and San Diego may experience 2-5 inches of rain, while mountainous areas could receive up to 10 inches. Wind gusts ranging from 25-40 mph, with some potentially reaching 55 mph, are anticipated.

This formidable storm, influenced by El Niño and propelled by an atmospheric river of moisture, marks a significant weather event for Southern California. The scale of the storm’s impact, resembling the magnitude of Hurricane Hilary in August, underscores the unprecedented nature of this meteorological phenomenon.

As the region grapples with the aftermath of this historic storm, authorities are emphasizing the need for continued vigilance, preparedness, and adherence to safety guidelines to mitigate potential risks associated with the extreme weather conditions.

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