“Weather Whiplash”: Floods Hit California as Water Restrictions End for Millions

The drought has been eased but winter storms continue to batter cities and rural areas alike, triggering evacuations

While the muddy runoffs, snowed-under vistas, and bright blue tarps that have stretched across Los Angeles rooftops these past weeks may indicate this wet and wild weather isn’t abating anytime soon, news confirming 44 percent of California is no longer in drought and the easing of water restrictions may be the flip side to severe storms buffeting the state.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California announced Wednesday it would end water restrictions for nearly 7 million residents—news that arrives as tens of thousands remain under evacuation orders and more Californians face blackouts, landslides and flooding from a pummeling of winter weather. The restrictions—among them, limiting outdoor watering to one day a week—were installed in parts of Los Angeles, Ventura, and San Bernardino counties last year.

Unexpected hail earlier this month went from a weather woe to a blessing in disguise, as the wet weather ultimately helped refill reservoirs and rivers. 

In Boyle Heights, a dramatic video shows the moment a first responder in a helicopter rescued a man who was swept into the swollen rushes of the L.A. river as he desperately clung to a concrete wall.


California Governor Gavin Newsom dubbed this extreme shift from drought and wildfires to flooding and snowstorms “weather whiplash,” while surveying the damage to an agricultural region in the state’s central coast Wednesday.

“Look back [at] the last few years in this state—it’s been fire to ice, with no warm bath in between,” Newsom said. “If anyone has any doubt about Mother Nature and her fury; if anyone has any doubt about what this is all about in terms of what’s happening to the climate and the changes that we are experiencing, come to California.”

Pajaro, California March 15, 2023-California Governor Gavin Newsome speaks to the media as he stands next to a flooded strawberry field in Pajaro Wednesday.

Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Some residents in rural areas have resorted to unusual tactics to battle floods. In California’s Central Valley, one man was filmed driving a truck loaded with soil into raging flood waters that were threatening his land and the nearby community.

The National Weather Service has recorded slightly under two feet of rain in downtown L.A. in 2023, making this year, so far, the 14th wettest in more than 140 years. Heading into the weekend, the weather service has predicted minor precipitation across California, followed up by more substantial storms next week.

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