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. MORE