By Joseph Serna, Rong-Gong Lin II and Corina Knoll
September 15, 2015

It swamped streets, spilled into buildings, sent mud in motion and roiled rivers where rescue crews aided those swept up in the water overflow.

Then the downpour that stunned the drought-weary Southland with its intensity slunk off in the sun.

But if experts are right, the deluge offered a preview for the wet El Niño winter ahead.

The storm dumped more than two inches of rain on downtown Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Alhambra and other areas in just a few hours. That made it the third-wettest storm for a September in downtown L.A. since the late 1870s, said Bill Patzert, a climatologist with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Tuesday’s deluge was similar to a classic El Niño storm in that it dumped large amounts of rain over a relatively small period of time. The storm hit the Los Angeles Basin hardest, with mountains, inland valleys and desert areas generally seeing less rain.

Patzert said El Niño will look like Tuesday’s downpour except it will be “more widespread, more continuous. Like a conveyor belt.”

National Weather Service forecaster Robbie Munroe said that Tuesday’s rain was from remnants of Hurricane Linda, which dissipated in the Pacific some time ago.

Linda was born out of the ocean warming trend El Niño creates, which encourages bigger, more frequent tropical storms in the Pacific, Munroe said.

Thanks to unusually warm waters off the West Coast, El Niño-fed storms are able to reach farther north and west toward Southern California than in past years, Munroe said.

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Forecasters have been saying Southern California is facing a major El Niño this winter, one that could be on par with the epic 1997-98 storm season.

Strong El Niños develop when a subtropical jet stream that ferries wet storms over the jungles of southern Mexico and Central America moves northward, putting a train of storms over Southern California and the southern United States.

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