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Strong storm moves into Southern California, raising flooding fears

LOS ANGELES — A powerful storm was bearing down on Southern California Wednesday, again raising fears of flooding and debris flows in recent burn areas.

Rain will start lightly Wednesday morning with precipitation ranging from one-tenth to a quarter-inch per hour in some areas, according to the National Weather Service. But by Wednesday afternoon, the rain will increase steadily, with downpours continuing into Thursday and reaching an inch per hour in some locations. The “peak intensity” of the storm is expected to be Thursday morning.

NWS forecasters said 2 to 4 inches of rain could fall across most of the area, with some mountain areas receiving 4 to 8 inches.

RELATED: After wet holiday weekend, more rain expected this week in Southern California

“These rates and amounts could cause significant flash flooding or debris flows across the region in and outside of recent burn scars with significant small stream and urban flooding possible,” according to the NWS.

National Weather Service

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation announced that Laurel Canyon Boulevard would be closed between Hollywood Boulevard and Mulholland Drive from 8 a.m. to noon Wednesday “in preparation for heavy rain.”

Meanwhile, Caltrans officials cautioned motorists statewide to stay off the roads if possible.

“Caltrans districts statewide are coordinating with local & state officials to assist with this latest storm system. TRAVEL IS NOT RECOMMENDED,” the agency tweeted Tuesday.

Caltrans officials also said they cleared a section of Angeles Crest (SR2) Highway in the Angeles National Forest below State Route 39, but drivers were advised to check quickmap.dot.ca.gov for chain requirements.

The NWS issued a flood watch that will be in effect Wednesday evening through Thursday afternoon over the bulk of the Southland. In Orange County, the flood watch will be in effect Thursday morning through Thursday afternoon.

National Weather Service

A high surf advisory was in effect from 6 a.m. Thursday to 10 a.m. Friday.

A winter storm warning was in effect from noon Wednesday to 3 a.m. Friday for the Los Angeles County Mountains including the cities of Acton and Mount Wilson.

The NWS said heavy snow was expected above 6,000 feet initially, but levels will decline Thursday, potentially affecting some of the higher roadways in the mountains, such as Angeles Crest and Big Pines highways in Los Angeles County.

The rain will be accompanied by gusting winds in Southern California. Gusts were expected to reach 55 mph in the mountains Wednesday afternoon, 60 mph after midnight, and 50 mph in the Antelope Valley. A wind advisory will be in effect in Orange County from 2 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, with winds of 15 to 25 mph possible, including gusts of up to 40 mph, according to the NWS.

National Weather Service

Forecasters said wind watches could be issued in Los Angeles County mountains and deserts as the storm develops.

“There will be many potential problems associated with this storm system including urban and small stream flooding, rocks and debris on roads, downed trees and numerous power outages, and mud and debris flows out of recent burn areas,” according to the NWS.

Conditions are expected to dry out by Thursday night, continuing into Friday. A series of “weak disturbances” are anticipated over the weekend, but “there will likely be drier and less cloudy intervals in between the clouds and rain,” forecasters said.

Temperatures, meanwhile, will remain about six degrees cooler than normal through the weekend.

With rain falling, Los Angeles County health officials issued their standard warning for people to avoid entering ocean water near discharging storm drains, creeks and rivers. An ocean water quality rain advisory will be in effect until at least 7 a.m. Friday.

Health officials noted that stormwater runoff that reaches the ocean can carry bacteria, chemicals, debris trash and other health hazards. People who come in contact with impacted water in the ocean could become ill, health officials said.

More rain was in the forecast early next week, with a chance of showers Sunday through Tuesday, according to the NWS.

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