A storm system moving along the northern coast of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula is expected to bring heavy rain, flash flooding, high winds and stormy weather through Saturday.
Kay was about 160 miles off the coast of San Diego on Friday afternoon, and meteorologists were surprised the storm had retained much of its strength as it entered cooler waters off California.
Typically, when tropical storms move north, they lose a lot of punch, said Ivory Small, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in San Diego.
“This one keeps punching,” Small said.
Rain spread across San Diego County in the morning and into Riverside, Orange and San Bernardino counties by the afternoon, the weather service said. Heavy rain and possible showers may still lie ahead, officials warned.
San Diego County was surrounded by heavy rain and wind taste more than 100 mph in mountainous areas. The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for the northeastern part of the county as well as Riverside County.
Forecasters say moisture from the storm could still drop about an inch of rain on coastal San Diego County, twice that amount in the valleys and 5 to 7 inches in the mountains.
The rain has the potential to disrupt the Padres’ home game against the Dodgers. The threat of severe weather caused singer Alicia Keys to postpone her sold-out concert Friday night at San Diego State University.
Orange County could get about half an inch of rain, while mountains in Riverside County could see up to 7 inches. Shane Reichardt, spokesman for the Riverside County Department of Emergency Management, said the storm has increased the possibility of power outages for public safety. It also reintroduced threats from fire and included flash floods.
“When you look at everything we’ve had, the heat we’ve had, the power concerns we’ve had, the storms, the potential for a public safety shutdown, that creates a lot of concern. It’s a lot for the community to continue to take,” Reichardt said.
Low desert areas, including the Coachella Valley, are also vulnerable. A flash flood watch is in effect for all of Southern California’s mountains, valleys and deserts, meteorologists said. Areas of the desert, including Mount Laguna, Ocotillo and areas around the Imperial Valley are under a flood warning.
Tropical Storm Kay’s winds were increasing Friday afternoon, with gusts of 90 to 100 mph expected. until the evening. The strong winds stressed power lines and downed trees in San Diego County, where maximum wind speeds were reached at 109 mph at Cuyamaca Peak, about nine miles south of Julian.
A high wind warning is in effect until midnight across the Inland Empire, the mountains of Riverside and San Diego counties and the San Diego coast and valleys. Orange County and the San Bernardino mountains and deserts are under wind advisories. Even coastal areas and valleys can see up to 60 mph winds.
“It remains to be seen,” said Elizabeth Schenk, a meteorologist with the Weather Service in San Diego. A gale warning was in effect for coastal waters, with seas as high as 12 feet. Orange County’s wave conditions could reach six feet. Stronger currents are expected through at least Sunday.
In anticipation of flooding and high tides, Long Beach began provide sandbags to residents in the lower areas at the fire and rescue station at 72nd Place and Ocean Boulevard.
Barriers have been built along the peninsula near Alamitos Beach to protect nearby homes.
“Residents are advised to stay away from the beach from 7pm to 7am, starting tonight,” Long Beach officials said in a statement.
In National City, Courtney Jones has been tracking Kay on her phone. He grew up storming the East Coast.
“I was expecting to wake up and look out and see trees bent over and leaves everywhere, loose dirt, but when I looked out, all I saw were puddles and people driving slower,” said Jones, 28. He was hoping the rain would cool down, but the conditions are still unbearably early. Friday, what he and his family call “dog’s breath weather”: hot, muddy and sticky.
Daye Salani left his downtown San Diego apartment without his umbrella and jacket when he left for work Friday morning.
“If I leave work and it’s pouring, I don’t mind getting wet,” said Salani, adding that “it’s been minutes” since it rained. This was a rare occurrence and “I invite it,” he said.
Heather Leer, who lives in Hemet, near fairview firewas on a layover at the Denver airport, hoping to avoid any weather-related disruptions so he could return to his home, which is within the fire evacuation zone.
Leer’s husband, who remained at their home, had not reported any rain Friday morning, but was concerned about the wind fanning the fire and challenging containment efforts. The fire that broke out on Monday exploded until about 30,000 acres. The rains can also cause floods and landslides in the burn scar.
“It’s a big concern,” said Leer, 41. “We’ve never seen so many things, one on top of the other, happen that could change our lives forever.”
In Imperial, Jorge Reyes said the rain started early Friday. It’s humid, he said, but it doesn’t feel anywhere near the triple digits the city registered over Labor Day weekend.
Flash flood warnings have been issued during previous monsoon seasons, but he said this is the first time he can recall one for September – or indeed any rainfall during this month in the calendar year.
“We don’t get rain all the time, and sometimes when it does, it’s around us in the Yuma area or other cities,” Reyes, 45, said.
The storm is not expected to bring heavy rain to Los Angeles County and surrounding areas, which are likely to dry out for most of Friday, although some scattered showers and thunderstorms may begin by the evening.
Still, Los Angeles International Airport it was announced on Twitter that due to the wind conditions, it would change operations so that the planes depart from the east and arrive from the west. There were minimal delays, and “99% of our schedule is on time so far,” LAX said.
Meteorologists have issued a flood warning for LA and Ventura counties, as well as the Antelope Valley. Forecasters are particularly concerned about Catalina Island, which is under a coastal flood advisory.
Southern California felt the effects of a tropical storm in 1997, when Tropical Storm Nora caused flooding, power outages and traffic accidents, as well as damaging several homes in Orange County.
Despite the coming rain, extreme heat remains an issue Friday amid a prolonged heat wave that has baked Southern California for more than a week. The temperature in downtown Los Angeles was 80 degrees by 9 a.m., said Dave Bruno with the Oxnard office of the weather service. Most parts of the valley and slopes did not drop below 90 overnight.
Temperatures began to drop around noon, but not before setting another daily record at LAX, which recorded a high of 101 degrees, breaking the previous record of 96 degrees set on September 9 in 1984.
More gentleness is coming. “Today will be the last days,” Bruno said.
Gary Robbins and Teri Figueroa of the San Diego Union-Tribune contributed to this report.