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Nearly all of California's coastal areas are under flood watches from atmospheric river

SAN DIEGO — Heavy rainfall saturated Southern California on Tuesday as nearly all of the state's coastal areas were under flood watches through Wednesday morning.

The rainfall comes two weeks after a massive storm brought widespread, dangerous flooding throughout Southern California, but forecasters said this week's precipitation will move through more quickly and won't match the last atmospheric river that killed several people.

Following a brief lull on Monday afternoon, the storm brought more rainfall and strong winds on Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service. Higher elevation areas saw heavy snow, and thunderstorms and strong winds were forecast across wide swaths of the state.

The atmospheric river causing the precipitation is expected to lose intensity with time, the weather service said. Additional rounds of light to moderate rain were forecast for Wednesday. Coastal flooding advisories were in effect in all coastal areas, the weather service said, and certain areas along waterways in Santa Barbara County were under evacuation warnings through Wednesday morning.

"This system has the potential to bring high impact weather and flooding concerns to the area through Tuesday evening," the National Weather Service office in Los Angeles said.

The system will head toward the Intermountain West as it weakens, bringing more precipitation across the Great Basin, Rockies and eventually the Four Corners by Wednesday.

Flood warnings were issued on Monday on the western side of Los Angeles, the Santa Monica Mountains and the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys.

Federal authorities have also approved disaster assistance for residents of San Diego County in response to the "Pineapple Express" storm about two weeks ago, which led to a state of emergency in eight counties and damaged hundreds of homes. Some areas in the region saw up to 8 inches of rain while Los Angeles saw 4 inches, surpassing the most rain the city saw in one day in more than 20 years.

A swift water rescuer with the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority patrols the bridges near the Los Angeles River on Feb 5, 2024.
A swift water rescuer with the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority patrols the bridges near the Los Angeles River on Feb 5, 2024.

Death reported in Santa Barbara County

Santa Barbara County sheriff’s officials said Tuesday that an 86-year-old man was found dead in a creek a day after he was reported missing. Authorities had found his truck stuck in rising waters near Goleta.

The cause of death was under investigation, KSBY-TV reported.

Ethan Ragsdale, a spokesperson for the Santa Barbara Police Department, urged residents to stay away from creeks and other bodies of water even after the rains subside.

"They’re absolutely dangerous," he said.

Rain shutters amusement parks in SoCal, mudslides in San Francisco

The rain on Tuesday put a damper on the "happiest place on earth"; Disneyland was forced to shorten its hours. Other parks in Southern California, including Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park and SeaWorld in San Diego, closed altogether.

A portion of the Pacific Coast Highway was closed south of Los Angeles due to flood risks, and evacuation warnings lasting until Wednesday were issued to the west due to possible mudslides.

Streets and sidewalks in San Francisco were flooded, and mudslides closed roads to the north and south of the city.

How much rain fell by Tuesday?

Bel Air, California, about 12 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, recorded 4.3 inches of rain over three days ending Tuesday. And mountain areas of Santa Barbara County received around 11 inches of rain over three days, the weather service reported.

The heaviest rain came through Los Angeles, picking up more into the night with an additional 1 to 2 inches on top of the 2 to 5 inches the area has received in recent days, according to Bob Oravec, a forecaster with the weather service.

Higher rain totals were forecast hit areas of the immediate coast, and in the mountains and foothills of Los Angeles, 3 to 5 inches of additional rain could fall.

"Flooding may occur in poor drainage areas and urban areas includes freeways and local roads," the weather service warned.

The Los Angeles area has received around ten inches of rain so far this month, with parts of the coastline and mountain areas farther north receiving more than a foot of precipitation, Oravec said.

While there was a break in the rain across Los Angeles later Tuesday afternoon, the weather service in San Diego said some areas could have low-lying flooding, impacting travel in Orange County and Inland Empire.

According to the weather service's radar, there was steady precipitation from northern Orange County to the San Bernardino foothills on Tuesday. The region received 1 to 2 inches of rain and 3.5 inches in the foothills.

As the rain moved south into San Diego County, the weather service said shower activity was expected to become more isolated in the afternoon with widespread rain expected in the evening and overnight.

Dry, warmer weather was on the way for Thursday and Friday, the weather service in Los Angeles said.

California weather map

US weather watches and warnings

National weather radar

Monday rain flooded local airport runway

The storm on Monday led to several rescues in northern and central California, where people became trapped in vehicles amid roadway flooding. One man who had been camping northeast of Sacramento was rescued from a tree as floodwaters rose, KCRA-TV reported.

The Santa Barbara airport closed Monday after as much as 10 inches of rain had fallen in the area by noon, covering the runways with water. All commercial flights were canceled and airport officials paused general aviation operations.

Contributing: Cybele Mayes-Osterman, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Atmospheric river continues to batter Southern California