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Pacific storm dumps heavy rains, unleashes flooding in 2 California coastal cities

People walk their dogs during a break between rain showers near the Golden Gate Bridge and Fort Point in San Francisco, Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
PORT HUENEME, Calif. – A Pacific storm pounded parts of Southern California on Thursday with heavy rain and street flooding, adding to hassles as holiday travel got underway.
The early morning downpours targeted coastal Ventura County, just to the northwest of Los Angeles County, swamping areas in the cities of Oxnard and Port Hueneme.
Rainfall rates exceeded 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) an hour as flash-flooding occurred, the National Weather Service said.
The city of Port Hueneme issued evacuation orders for residences on four streets and warned of potential evacuations on four other streets. An evacuation center was set up at a college gymnasium.
The city of Oxnard said in a social media post that many streets and intersections were heavily impacted. “Please stay off the city streets for the next several hours until the water recedes,” the post said.
The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for Oxnard and the city of Ventura at 1:28 a.m. due to a high-intensity thunderstorm, but no tornado activity was immediately observed, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said in a social media post.
The storm swept through Northern California earlier in the week as the center of the low-pressure system slowly moved south off the coast. Forecasters described it as a “cutoff low,” a storm that is cut off from the general west-to-east flow and can linger for days, increasing the amount of rainfall.
The system was producing hit-and-miss bands of precipitation rather than generalized widespread rainfall. Forecasters said the low would wobble slightly away from the coast on Thursday, drawing moisture away and allowing some sunshine, but will return.
The San Diego-area weather office warned that rather than fizzling, the storm was gathering energy and its main core would move through that region overnight through Friday morning.
Meanwhile, Californians were gearing up for holiday travel and finishing preparations for Christmas. The Automobile Club of Southern California predicted 9.5 million people in the region would travel during the year-end holiday period.
The Northeast was hit with an unexpectedly strong storm earlier this week, and some parts of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont were still digging out from rain and wind damage. Parts of Maine along the Androscoggin and Kennebec rivers were hit especially hard.
Flood waters were receding throughout northern New England, though some localized areas were still in the flood stage, said Jon Palmer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. Flood warnings were also still in effect in parts of Maine and New Hampshire, he said.
At least one person was still missing in Maine, where at least three people died as a result of the storm. The storm cut power to 400,000 customers in Maine, and restoration was still underway Thursday morning.

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