Steve Brown places a sandbag in front of his home on Ocean View Boulevard… (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles…)
Standing in front of her mudslide-damaged home in La Cañada Flintridge on a wet Saturday afternoon, Karineh Mangassarian said she hoped the rain would give it a rest.
"At least for a month, then it can rain again," she said. "I just want the storms to ease up."
Better luck next year.
As residents worried once again about sliding foothills and Los Angeles was again bedeviled by the kind of bumper-car accidents that happen whenever it rains, there's good news for water managers and people who generally like stormy weather.
Even the most skeptical meteorologists and climatologists now agree that El Niño is alive and kicking and that Southern California should have, at long last, a wetter-than-average winter. And the rains could stretch well into spring.
"February is the wettest month on average, and we can get some pretty significant storms in March, and maybe some in April," said Eric Boldt, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Oxnard.
This isn't an especially potent El Niño for the Southland, but it has been strong enough to make this year's winter seem like winter for the first time in five years. Another storm system is expected to arrive Tuesday.
Five years ago, downtown L.A. had the second-highest rainfall total from July through June in its recorded history. That happened during a weak El Niño. Bill Patzert, a climatologist for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, said those storms were really powered by an Arctic jet stream.
Three years ago, L.A. experienced its driest year on record -- with only 3.21 inches of rain -- during a moderate El Niño. That year, Patzert correctly predicted that L.A. would be extremely dry. Federal weather scientists have consistently forecast that this year Southern California would see above-normal rains as El Niño showed staying power.
Patzert, who has disagreed with them before -- referring to weak El Niños as "El Wimpos" and "La Nada" -- did so again, arguing that Los Angeles would once again be dry. He said that after studying satellite images, he thought this El Niño year would be similar to the one from the record dry spell in 2006-07.
But this time, Patzert concedes, it was his forecast that was all wet.
"I was wrong. I repent," he said. "This thing had longer legs than I thought it would."
Saturday's rains caused more anxiety than actual damage. County Fire Department Capt. Mark Savage said 224 homes were evacuated in La Cañada Flintridge and La Crescenta as a precaution, as were more than 60 homes in the Paradise Valley area. He said some residents refused to evacuate, which he said could have been a mistake.
"Our spotters saw signs of mud and debris flow issues," Savage said.
Just more than 13 inches of rain have fallen in downtown L.A. so far this season. The average for this time of the year is about 8.5 inches.
One thing weather scientists generally agree on is that El Niño years are often followed by La Niña years.
El Niños are marked by warmer-than-normal temperatures in the equatorial Pacific, and La Niñas result when sea surface temperatures are colder than average. The former bring above-average rainfall, and the latter almost always mean dry winters.
So although Mangassarian's wish for at least one rainless winter month might not pan out this year, she could get more than she asked for next year.