The storm that slammed into the high desert and mountains of Southern California this week was one for the record books.

Intense rain sent massive mudflows onto highways, picking up cars and pushing them into one another. Hundreds of vehicles were trapped in mud up to 20 feet deep; in some cases, motorists were stranded overnight.

In one spot in the Antelope Valley, the storm dumped 1.81 inches of rain in 30 minutes on Thursday, in what the National Weather Service described as a 1,000-year rain event.

"It's absolutely incredible," said Robbie Munroe, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

October storms are nothing new in the high desert. But experts say the intensity of the deluge is just the latest byproduct of the record temperatures in the Pacific Ocean.

Thursday's storm was the result of a cutoff low, a slow-moving low-pressure system that gets pinched off from the jet stream and starts its own unpredictable trajectory, said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at Stanford University.

The warm ocean temperatures — about 75 degrees on Thursday, at least 5 degrees above normal — produced more water evaporation and higher humidity levels. The storm system combined with the high humidity to create enough instability in the atmosphere to trigger the intense thunderstorms and torrential rainfall, Swain said.

The storm was part of the same system that hit Southern California more than a week ago, Swain said. It originally came in from the north, then moved east over the desert Southwest. From there, it "made the strange track of coming to Southern California from the east," he said.

On Friday afternoon, residents in the Cuyama Valley area of Santa Barbara County were dealing with a new round of flash floods and mudslides that trapped cars. The National Weather Service reported that Bates Ridge saw 1.18 inches of rain in 30 minutes.

Warming Pacific waters has been a topic of growing discussion among scientists in recent years. Amid much debate about the cause, some experts blame the warming for some sea life and bird deaths.

The storm was not related to El Niño, the warm weather pattern that experts say is expected to produce heavy rain in California this winter.

But John Dumas, a weather service meteorologist, said these storms offer a preview of what's to come.

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