Rare waterfalls appear after storms around Los Angeles


Recent storms have transformed the normally arid desert of Southern California into gorgeous green landscapes, snow-capped mountains and something even more awe-inspiring: rare waterfalls.

After severe storm systems brought rain and snow to the Angeles National Forest, drivers along Highway 39 north of Azusa were lucky enough to see temporary water cascading down rocky cliffs.

A pair of self-flowing waterfalls, dozens of feet high, could be seen pouring into the San Gabriel River south of the San Gabriel Dam on Wednesday morning. Drivers stopped for photos, including a Times photographer who snapped a picture of several waterfalls along the highway that winds through the forest toward Crystal Lake.

A composite of two photos shows a large waterfall at the entrance of San Gabriel Canyon.

(Raul Roa/Los Angeles Times)

The road has since been closed to traffic north of Azusa as Caltrans workers clear a rock slide, meaning these pictures may be the only way to see the falls before they dry up.

In parts of Southern California, up to six feet of snow fell. According to Carol Smith, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Los Angeles/Oxnard, San Gabriel Dam received more than 10 inches of rain last week.

Visitors to the forest take pictures of the temporary waterfall along Highway 39.

Visitors to the forest take pictures of the temporary waterfall along Highway 39.

(Raul Roa/Los Angeles Times)

It was enough to bring the long dry stunts to life, he added.

“We’ve had a lot of big storms, so it all adds up,” Smith said.

Winter storms have dropped so much rainfall that parts of California are no longer in drought conditions. Some parks, including Yosemite National Park and Mojave National Preserve, were closed indefinitely due to the severe weather and resulting damage.

Access to the Angeles National Forest is limited by several road closures due to mudslides and landslides, said Dana Dierkes, the forest’s public relations manager. An avalanche occurred on Baldy Mountain on Wednesday. Residents of mountainous settlements struggled under heavy snow, some were trapped in their homes.

Dierks cautioned visitors not to attempt to chase the falls.

A waterfall flows along the road as a car splashes a puddle.

Since then, Highway 39 has been closed to traffic north of Azusa.

(Raul Roa/Los Angeles Times)

“There are still many roads in the forest that are closed or have limited access,” Dierks said.

Times photographer Raul Roa, who photographed the falls before the road was closed, said he had never seen anything like it in more than 30 years of visiting the forest. Where he could see only faint patches of water, waterfalls poured forth.

A long, winding waterfall cascades hundreds of meters down the mountain.

A long waterfall cascades hundreds of feet down a mountain in the Angeles National Forest on Wednesday through thick brush.

(Raul Roa/Los Angeles Times)

“Even from about 100 meters away, the sound of the water flowing down the hill hitting the rocks is loud and powerful,” Roa said. He estimated that some of the falls were at least 100 feet high.

“It’s been a rare year in the winter,” Dierks said. “The amount of snow we received and the repeated storms created a very unusual weather phenomenon in the Angeles National Forest and surrounding mountains.”

On Wednesday, two high falls appeared south of the San Gabriel Reservoir

South of the San Gabriel Reservoir, two high falls form.

(Raul Roa/Los Angeles Times)

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