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Next storm could move into L.A. on Christmas Day

December 23, 2010 |  6:42 am

After two days of sunny skies, Southern California could be hit by another rainstorm on Christmas Day.

According to the National Weather Service, Thursday and Friday will see mostly sunny skies with highs in the low 60s. But on Christmas Day, clouds will arrive and there will be a 50% chance of rain. Clouds and possible rain will continue Sunday into Monday.

But this latest storm would be mild compared with the pounding Southern California has taken over the past week.

The storms were one of the most powerful systems to strike Southern California since the memorable El Niño storms of the winter of 2004-05. And they seemingly embarrassed weather forecasters and climatologists who had earlier predicted that because of La Niña, this winter would be drier than average.

The weather service said 8.35 inches of rain had fallen on downtown L.A. so far this December, meaning that the area could break the record for the second-wettest December — 8.77 inches during the El Niño storms of December 2004. But it is unlikely to break the all-time record of December rains, when more than 15 inches fell in December 1889.

Normal December rainfall for downtown L.A. is 1.9 inches.

Laguna Beach, which saw significant damage, was doused with 4.29 inches of rain in just 24 hours — nearly half of what the city had received all week. Orange County and the Inland Empire got the brunt of Wednesday's storm.

What was Orange County's misfortune offered L.A. County a reprieve. County officials had feared a repeat of the Feb. 6 floods, when a slow-moving storm cell parked itself near La Cañada Flintridge, unleashing a torrent that tossed a huge boulder into a storm drain, clogging it and then pushing muddy rapids into 40 homes.

But on Wednesday, debris basins remained 70% to 75% empty, said Bob Spencer, spokesman for the county Department of Public Works.

"There wasn't a lot of material that came down the hills this time around," he said.


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-- Rong-Gong Lin II