Rain, rain, and more rain roared through San Diego County like a freight train with no brakes this week and contrary to past storm trajectories refused to depart without causing mayhem and consternation.
As if coronavirus weren’t bad enough, at least the record April rain made sheltering in place a more attractive alternative to wandering around outside.
Riffing off T.S. Eliot’s “April is the cruellest month because the life and colour of spring throws one’s depression into stark relief and forces painful memories to surface,” rain started falling early Monday and dropped over six inches of precipitation by Thursday. The National Weather Service called it an “atmospheric river.”
North County featured some prodigious area totals, especially considering th usual state of rain this time of year. Palomar Mountain totaled 5.41 inches of rain from Monday to Thursday. In the same period, some 3.14 inches dropped over Valley Center, 2.45 inches atop Bonsall.
Forecasters said Lindbergh Fileld received 1.98 inches on rain Friday, breaking the record for April 10. The previous record was 1.03 inches, set in 1952. Oceanside Harbor got 3.09 inches, breaking the record of 0.30 inches, set in 2001. Vista also hit 3.09 inches, breaking the record of 0.54 inches, set in 1965. Chula Vista got 1.56 inches, breaking the record of 0.48 inches, set in 2016.
Escondido received 1.53 inches, breaking the record of 0.86, set in 1965. Ramona got 1.90 inches, breaking the record of 0.60 inches, set in 2016. Alpine received 1.41 inches, breaking the record of 0.48 inches, set in 1965. And Campo got 0.89 inches, breaking the record of 0.80 inches, set in 1965.
The heavy rain added to the woes of North County Transit District on Friday, slowing or stopping a number of trains, according to the San Diego Union Tribune.
Flooding at the Buena Creek Sprinter station in Vista canceled or delayed trains between Oceanside and Vista for much of the day. Flooding west of the Rancho Del Oro station in Oceanside allowed only bus service from that point to the Oceanside Transit Center from late morning on.
Coaster commuter trains between San Diego and Oceanside were delayed at times because of speed restrictions south of Sorrento Valley.
Yet, that was a mere drop in the proverbial bucket as Friday proved the waterfall that broke the county’s sandbagged back channels.
Over a 20-hour period ending at midday, the wintry atmospheric system dropped an additional two to three inches of moisture in parts of the already saturated county, including Carlsbad, Escondido and San Marcos, according to the National Weather Service.
The persistent heavy showers led over the morning and afternoon to submerged and debris-blocked roadways in numerous communities.
By late afternoon, the slow-moving weeklong storm had doused most parts of the county with at least several inches of rain or snow, and some with well over six inches’ worth, according to meteorologists.
— NWS San Diego (@NWSSanDiego) April 10, 2020
Five-day rain tallies as of 3:30 p.m. Friday included: 8.35 inches in the Palomar area; 7.63 in Deer Springs; 7.12 in Lower Oat Flats; 7.01 in Horsethief Canyon; 6.8 in Couser Canyon; 6.27 in Valley Center; 6.26 in Bonsall; 6.14 in Carlsbad; 6.1 in Skyline Ranch; 5.88 in San Marcos; 5.86 in Encinitas; 5.68 at Henshaw Dam and in Oceanside; 5.65 on Mount Woodson; 5.62 in Fallbrook; 5.61 at Miramar Lake; 5.54 on Otay Mountain; 5.38 in Poway; 5.37 at Lake Wohlford; 5.31 in Rincon Springs; 5.28 in Mesa Grande; 5.23 in Escondido; 5.2 in Rancho Bernardo; and 5.17 in Santee.
Among other local rainfall totals since Sunday were 4.57 inches in San Onofre; 4.55 in Mission Valley; 4.52 in La Mesa and Miramar; 4.44 in Kearny Mesa; 4.41 in Fallbrook; 3.53 at Lindbergh Field; 4.05 in Granite Hills; 3.86 in Ramona; 3.83 in Flinn Springs; 3.53 in Serra Mesa; 3.45 in Point Loma; 3.34 in Barona; 3.19 at Dulzura Summit and in San Diego Country Estates; 3.09 in Harbison Canyon; 2.9 in Alpine; 2.64 at Brown Field airport in Otay Mesa; 2.28 in Thousand Trails; 2.2 in Ranchita; 1.68 in Campo; 1.38 in Tierra Del Sol; 1.14 in San Felipe; 0.79 in Borrego Springs; 0.77 in Agua Caliente; and 0.76 in Ocotillo Wells.
The system died out late Friday night, capping a six-day period in which Palomar Mountain received at least 8.40 inches of rain while 7.30 inches fell in Encinitas, 6.30 inches fell in Valley Center and 3.50 inches hit San Diego International Airport.
By 1 p.m. Friday, the reading at the airport made this the fourth wettest April in San Diego — a record that dates back to 1850, according to the National Weather Service.
The airport has received more than 13 inches of precipitation during the current rainy season — something that has not happened since 2004-05, when the city got more than 22 inches.
“The storm had headed toward Las Vegas on Thursday then came back and has just been sitting on top of us,” said Alex Tardy, a weather service forecaster. “It’s the perfect scenario for prolonged rain.”
The system, which originated in the Gulf of Alaska, also brought light snow, covering the peaks at Palomar Mountain and Mount Laguna.
Road woes and road wrecks
Alas and alack, what was expected to be the final day of a slow-moving storm’s stint over San Diego County was awash with downed trees, flooded roads and dozens of crashes — one deadly — on Friday, according to local news sources.
Water from hours of heavy downpours was pooling on roadways across San Diego County, including on the major North County artery State Route 78. At about 9 a.m. Friday, CalTrans issued a SigAlert and shut down all lanes of SR-78 at El Camino Real Road due to flooding.
The freeway wasn’t completely reopened until just after 10 p.m. It was the first time in one officer’s memory that the full freeway needed to be closed due to overflow from the creek that runs along the road.
— NWS San Diego (@NWSSanDiego) April 10, 2020
An overturned big rig blocked two lanes of northbound I-15 in Escondido, just south of the SR 78 connector Friday afternoon.
California Highway Patrol first reported the crash at around 2:30 p.m. Preliminary reports indicated a heavy-duty semi carrying a 48-foot trailer hit a small sedan. The big rig then rolled and crashed, blocking the two leftmost HOV lanes.
No injuries were reported immediately after the crash, but the collision did cause one other car to spin out in the area. After about 90 minutes on scene, troopers cleared the area and reopened I-15’s HOV lanes just after 4 p.m.
Traffic was unusually light Friday on the region’s streets and freeways due to the coronavirus, which had people sheltering at home. But the rain, falling in vertical sheets, contributed to a crash Friday morning that killed a father and left his teen son gravely injured, and shut down state Route 78 in Oceanside for much of the day.
Friday’s steady rain also caused flooding that prompted a full closure of state Route 78 in both directions near El Camino Real in Oceanside around 8:15 a.m. that lasted all day.
New rainfall records for April 10 set across San Diego County
Friday’s storm broke eight San Diego County records — in some cases by extraordinary margins.
Location Year Inches San Diego International Airport 2020 1.981.98 1952 1.031.03 Oceanside Harbor 2020 3.093.09 2001 0.300.30 Vista 2020 3.093.09 1965 0.540.54 Chula Vista 2020 1.561.56 2016 0.480.48 Escondido 2020 1.531.53 1965 0.860.86 Ramona 2020 1.901.90 2016 0.600.60 Alpine 2020 1.411.41 1965 0.480.48 Campo 2020 0.890.89 1965 0.800.80
Heavy rains flooded the Sunshine Gardens nursery on Quail Gardens Drive in Encinitas and several animals, including goats, chickens and a tortoise, had to be rescued. Unfortunately, some birds on the property didn’t make it. Water could be seen as high as the windows on one of the property’s buildings.
Also in Encinitas, heavy rains caused a mudslide that damaged a nursing facility where dozens of patients lived. the damage was severe enough that around 20 residents ahd to be relocated to another facility in La Jolla.
The Buena Vista lagoon flooded and left adjacent Coast Highway closed for hours between Eaton Street in Oceanside and State Street in Carlsbad closed for hours. The flooding was reported at around 2:30 p.m. and the highway was still closed as of 11 p.m. Officials don’t think the road will be reopened until sometime Saturday.
By 9 p.m. Friday, after six days of winter storm, Encinitas topped coastal areas with a whopping 7.9 inches of rain. Carlsbad and San Marcos also received more than 6 inches.
California Highway Patrol officers were dealing with a slew of incidents due to the rain. CHP Officer Jim Bettencourt warned drivers to “please slow down. We are already seeing too many crashes this morning.”
At one time, the agency was responding to at least 35 active crashes across the county, Bettencourt said. Slick roads and reduced visibility were contributors to many of those crashes, authorities said.
To highlight the severity of the situation, Bettencourt shared photos of the CHP’s communication system, showing a long list of incidents occurring between 5:30 and 8:00 a.m. Another image showed six incidents within a six-minute span.
“Remember during the rain even 65 mph isn’t a safe speed,” Bettencourt Tweeted.
At least one of Friday morning’s crashes was, unfortunately, deadly. A father was killed and two children were sent to the hospital after a car lost control and crashed into a tree on Del Mar Heights Road. The condition of the children was not known.
Rainfall in inches
Sample of rainfall totals during the 5-day period ending at 3:30 p.m. Friday
When the stubborn storm finally made its exit overnight, partly cloudy and more temperate conditions were expected to develop on Saturday, though lingering moisture from the north will keep a fair amount of clouds around along with a small chance of showers Sunday and Monday, forecasters advised.
Fair skies and warmer temperatures were expected by the middle of next week, according to meteorologists.