Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Strongest El Nino Storm So Far This Winter Hits California

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Strongest El Nino Storm So Far This Winter Hits California

Article excerpt

LOS ANGELES * The hillside above the California home of Wayne Socha had held firm against thunderstorms over the past three decades. But after a wildfire two years ago stripped away vegetation and loosened soil, he feared the strong El Nio storms pounding the state could bring it all down.

So the corporate auditor, 61, grabbed a sledgehammer and waded through the muck in his Monrovia backyard to knock a hole in a cement wall and let a mud flow skirt his house and run into a street.

"It looked like Niagara Falls," Socha said. "It was quickly building up behind the house and I knew it could come right inside."

Socha is among uncounted Californians trying to protect their property after the first El Nio storms descended on California this week and brought wet, windy weather to an area stretching all the way to the Gulf Coast.

Those storms dumped nearly 3 inches of rain Tuesday on Southern California, turning Socha's terraced backyard into a raging torrent of mud and debris. He kept his sledgehammer and shovels close on Wednesday as the winter's most powerful El Nio storm so far pushed into the state.

Driving rain inundated the San Francisco Bay Area during the morning commute, causing nearly two dozen crashes, toppling trees and flooding streets and streams. Officials shut down the city's iconic cable cars, and buses were used to serve riders.

The system pushed south toward Los Angeles, stirring high waves in the ocean and causing extensive flooding in the San Fernando Valley that swamped cars in deep water.

It packed colder temperatures, stronger winds and heavier rainfall than the previous storms that have lined up since the weekend and brought much-needed rain to the drought-stricken state.

In all, the current storm was expected to dump as much as 3 more inches of rain in coastal and valley areas and up to 4 inches at higher elevations, National Weather Service meteorologist Curt Kaplan said. …

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