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Flooding risk rises as rainfall continues through Wednesday

December 19, 2010 | 12:20 pm

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Meteorologists are warning about possible damaging flooding in the Los Angeles area in the days before Christmas.

Mike Pigott, a meteorologist with Accuweather.com, said 5 to 7 inches of rain could fall in Los Angeles' coast and valley areas by the end of Wednesday. Projected precipitation is even higher in Orange County, where Anaheim could see up to 9.5 inches during that period.

"I think you guys are going to see a lot of flooding problems," said Pigott.

The storms are being fueled by two surges of subtropical moisture, one arriving Tuesday and the other Wednesday.

Mountain areas burned by recent wildfires have been holding up, with no damaging flooding reported so far this weekend.

On Sunday into Monday, about 1.5 to 3 inches of precipitation is expected to fall on the coast and valleys, said Stuart Seto, weather specialist with the National Weather Service office in Oxnard.

"We still have flash flood watches for the burn areas through his evening," Seto said, "especially because you've already had a lot of rain, and it was pretty consistent from hour to hour."

Between Thursday and Sunday morning, downtown L.A. has received 2.85 inches of rain; Los Angeles International Airport, 2.95; Long Beach, 2.35; Santa Monica, 3.16; Culver City, 2.56; Beverly Hills, 3.80; Northridge, 3.20; Pasadena, 2.65; San Gabriel, 2.42; Whittier, 2.62; San Gabriel Dam, 4.53.

Orange County and the Inland Empire saw substantially less rain, with Huntington Beach seeing 1.61 inches; Costa Mesa, 1.26; Laguna Beach, 1.45; San Juan Capistrano, 1.69; Anaheim, 1.34; Riverside, 0.39; and Ontario, 0.95.

"We got a ground pretty permeated from this slow, consistent rain," Seto said. "On Tuesday and Wednesday ... it looks like it's going to be a pretty significant storm."

Rainfall should taper off by Thursday, and Christmas Eve and early Christmas Day should be partly cloudy. Rain might return by Saturday evening, Seto said. 

Seto said the set of storms pummeling Southern California since Thursday seems to be among the largest that have rolled through since the El Niño storms of early 2005.

The system hammering Southern California is being caused by a large plume of subtropical moisture that is stretching from Asia, which has mixed in with a low-pressure system.

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-- Rong-Gong Lin II

Photo: A fig tree fell over on Centinela Avenue near Venice Boulevard. Credit: Katie Falkenberg For The Times

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