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Flash flood watch issued; storm break likely Tuesday

The first of three expected storms hit the San Diego region Monday afternoon, prompting the National Weather Service to issue a flash flood watch and an urban and small stream advisory through the evening.

The advisory covered much of San Diego’s coastal area and included a warning not to drive vehicles into areas “where the water covers the roadway.”

In addition, the county’s Department of Environmental Health has issued a warning for the coastal waters due to the rainfall. “Swimmers, surfers, and other ocean users are warned that the levels of bacteria can rise significantly in ocean and bay waters, especially near storm drains,creeks, rivers, and lagoon outlets that discharge urban runoff,” the warning stated.

At midafternoon Monday, Tina Stall of the NWS said, “It’s still looking like an inch to an inch and a half of rain along the coast, two to three (inches) inland and four to five (inches) in the mountains,’' Stall said.

The rain was expected to taper off Monday night, with a break expected Tuesday, followed by more stormy weather the rest of the week, according to Stall.

In addition to the flood watch, the weather service issued a wind advisory calling for gusts up to 40 mph, a gale warning for coastal waters through tonight and a small craft advisory for strong ocean winds through Wednesday.

San Diego lifeguards activated their swiftwater rescue units, while Cal Fire has bulldozers, four-wheel drive vehicles and 177 firefighters available to deal with possible flood situations.

The U.S. Coast Guard urged boaters and beach-goers to exercise caution this week because of the storms, and the San Diego Police Department warned residents of low-lying areas of the Tijuana River Valley to move their families and horses to higher ground.

The Monday morning sprinkles that served as a preview for the bigger storm resulted in three dozen car crashes on area freeways between midnight and 1 p.m., California Highway Patrol Officer Jesse Udovich said.

A normal dry day brings between 50-75 automobile accidents, so the current rate is almost normal, he said.

The county’s health advisory cautioned that “ctivities such as swimming, surfing and diving should be avoided in all coastal waters for 72 hours following rain. This includes all

coastal beaches and all of Mission Bay and San Diego Bay. Elevated bacteria levels can persist after a rainstorm depending upon the intensity of the storm, volume of runoff and ocean and current conditions.”