Feb 1, 2024 - News

Gloria issues evacuation warning for flood-prone neighborhoods

Diagram of an atmospheric river.

Diagram of an atmospheric river. Image: Sara Grillo/Axios

Mayor Todd Gloria on Wednesday issued a voluntary evacuation warning for the city's low-lying, flood-prone areas, as expected heavy rains from an atmospheric river make their way to Southern California.

Threat level: The warning applies to residents living within flood plains in Southcrest, Mountain View, Encanto, San Ysidro, Mission Valley and Sorrento Valley.

  • Many of those areas are still recovering from historic floods last week, while city workers have cleared vegetation and debris from four miles of culverts and flood channels in hopes of preventing a repeat of the widespread property damage.
  • Thursday's storm is not expected to bring as much rainfall as last week's, which city officials have described as a 1,000-year storm, but even a much smaller storm could overwhelm the failed stormwater system.
  • "Chollas Creek … at best, it's a 10-year storm event that it can convey," said Kris McFadden, the city's deputy chief operating officer. "Anything beyond a 10-year storm event is still going to surcharge, and because the houses are in the floodplain in so many areas, that's why it's so critical to get this message out now."

What he's saying: "I want to be very, very clear — this is not an evacuation order," Gloria said at a Wednesday press conference. "This warning is voluntary and it is designed to encourage residents in these flood-prone communities to prepare if and when evacuation does become necessary."

State of play: The city has established a shelter at the Municipal Gym in Balboa park, and is offering transportation.

  • Fire and rescue officials said swift water rescue teams will be stationed within flood-prone areas during the storm.

The big picture: Thursday's storm and another, potentially larger downpour forecast for this coming Monday, are products of an atmospheric river, or a highway of concentrated water vapor in the middle atmosphere, about 10,000 to 20,000 feet above the surface, Axios' Andrew Freedman reports.

  • The storms are also expected to deliver feet of mountain snow and damaging winds to California and parts of the Pacific Northwest this week.
  • Human-caused climate change is expected to result in atmospheric rivers capable of bringing more rain and snow, over the longer term.
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