In the wake of Tropical Storm Kay, Gov. Newsom declared a state of emergency in Los Angeles County to support local municipalities’ damage recovery efforts.
After several weeks of a heat wave that consistently brushed the 100s on the Fahrenheit scale, Southern California residents found themselves wishing for rain or a break from the heat.
Their wishes came true — in the form of a tropical storm nearly missing Southern California last Friday.
Tropical Storm Kay, initially classified as a Category 1 hurricane, made landfall in Baja California on Thursday, bringing up to six inches of rain and severe flooding to the Baja California Peninsula. The storm system then moved northwest over the Pacific.
Although Kay never made landfall in California, as it deteriorated off the coast, it generated strong winds and heavy rain for the Southern California region, causing mudslides and flooding.
On Friday, a week after Kay’s initial impact, California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for Los Angeles County and several other southern counties to combat the lasting effects of the storm.
“The proclamation enables the counties to access resources under the California Disaster Assistance Act, directs Caltrans to formally request immediate assistance through the Federal Highway Administration’s Emergency Relief Program, and supports impacted residents by easing access to unemployment benefits and waiving fees to replace documents such as driver’s licenses and birth certificates,” stated a release from the Governor’s Office.
Newsom’s state of emergency proclamation revealed the full extent of Kay’s damage in California, compounded by existing burn scars from the El Dorado Fire and the Apple Fire.
According to the proclamation, two inches of rain falling in a short period over burn scars, “caused debris flows; prompted widespread evacuations and shelter-in-place orders; threatened, damaged or destroyed at least 30 homes and critical infrastructure, including power and water lines, businesses, and roads; caused one fatality; and necessitated the deployment of urban search and rescue teams in areas impacted by significant debris flow.”
The state of emergency proclamation authorizes local governments to request assistance from the Office of Emergency Services for disaster response that may be beyond their abilities as individual municipalities.
The counties of Imperial, Inyo, Riverside and San Bernardino are included with Los Angeles in Newsom’s declaration of state of emergency.
Some residual effects of Tropical Storm Kay have been seen at the coast with winds up to 40 miles per hour and warnings from the National Weather Service of a high risk of life-threatening rip currents at Los Angeles County beaches.
Storm conditions also caused mudslides in the mountains over the weekend, with a landslide in the Lake Hughes area last Sunday that caused 24 cars to become stuck. The Los Angeles County Fire Department rescued 53 trapped passengers from the landslide, and no injuries were reported.
Flood watches were in effect for mountainous areas, and sand berms had to be constructed in Long Beach to prevent flooding of coastal homes during high tide.
This tropical storm system was extremely rare for Southern California and proved to be shocking to residents and weather scientists alike.
Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA, wrote in his blog Weather West,“Seeing intact tropical cyclones this far north and east along the Pacific Coast of North America is quite rare — there are only a couple of other examples in living memory in which tropical storm or greater strength storms have gotten this close to SoCal.”