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First Big El Niño Storm Slams Southern California, Giving Taste Of Chaos

After years of drought and prayers for rain, the Golden State apparently got more than it could handle Tuesday when El Niño-fueled rains finally arrived.

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California has been in a historic drought for several years, so you'd think the Golden State would be extra prepared and stoked about El Niño-fueled storms finally showing up. But no.

#ElNino is causing mud flows, flooding and closing streets like this one in Glendora

Actually, as a big storm drenched Southern California Tuesday, things kind of started falling apart. There was lots of flooding.

Small mud slide has blocked part of Silverado Canyon Road

Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

A homeowner, who gave his name as David, clears a drain next to sandbags outside his home during an El Niño–strengthened rainstorm Tuesday in Glendora, California.

In some places the city was literally falling apart.

In fairness, the storm was the first big El Niño event of the season.

Scientists have been predicting a powerful El Niño for months, and this week it matched the strength of the record-setting 1997 event, according to the National Weather Service.

The El Niño of the late 1990s caused widespread flooding, mudslides, and havoc, and in the run-up to this wet season scientists have been warning California residents to prepare for strong storms.

Nevertheless, the impacts from Tuesday's storm were widespread. Besides flooding and mudslides, several people had to be rescued.

Three victims walked out of the Conejo Creek by Ventura County Fire personnel. #VCFD

The Los Angeles River — usually an ironically named movie set for shooting post-apocalyptic action scenes — became a waterway.

LA River at #LaurelCanyon #SoCal #NBC4You

Standing #waves in the #LAriver ... More water on the way #elnino

Fun was canceled for the day at Southern California theme parks.

The Los Angeles Times ran not one but two guides on how to survive the storm.

(One of the stories appears to be from 2014, but was re-promoed on the Times' homepage Tuesday.)

Now, you might think that with the multiyear drought, Southern California would be saving all this water and putting it to good use. But there again, you would be wrong.

The storm drains are flowing! Please keep your distance, we expect lots of sand erosion near breached storm drains.

In fact, an inch of rain across the L.A. region produces up to 10 billion gallons of runoff. Much of it mixes with garbage and animal poop that wasn't cleaned up and races toward the ocean, KPCC reported.

Finally, amid the chaos, an unlikely hero — indeed the hero we deserve — emerged from the storm: a trash can, racing through the streets on waves of garbage and poop and broken dreams.

Jim Dalrymple is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

Contact Jim Dalrymple II at

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