It’s a major rainfall weekend across California as one of the biggest storms of the season heads south, with heavy snowfall blanketing the Sierra Nevada on Saturday and rain expected at night in Los Angeles.
The Bay Area woke up Saturday to flood advisories in low-lying areas of Marin, Napa and Sonoma counties, as well as warnings of wind gusts up to 55 mph in some areas. A flash flood watch has also been issued for the Colorado, Dolan and River burn areas in Monterey County.
In the mountains on Interstate 80 and along Donner Pass toward Lake Tahoe, the storm is expected to intensify late Saturday afternoon and Sunday, forecasters said, with an additional 2 to 4 feet of snow expected near Soda Springs and the Sugar Bowl Resort, which reported 65 inches of packed power at its peak Saturday morning.
“A major winter storm will make mountain travel EXTREMELY dangerous this weekend,” the National Weather Service in Sacramento tweeted. “Conditions are rapidly deteriorating as heavy snow continues to fall, combined with strong, gusty winds. MOUNTAIN TRAVEL IS STRONGLY DISCOURAGED!”
The storm could dump up to 6 feet of snow in parts of the Sierra and up to 5 feet on some peaks in the northern Coast Ranges and in the southern cascades of Shasta County.
Along the coast, Caltrans closed Highway 1 through Big Sur. The 65-mile closure stretches from Ragged Point, just north of Hearst Castle, to Palo Colorado Road, south of Carmel. The agency is concerned about possible debris flows from scorched terrain from the 2020 Dolan Fire and this year’s Colorado Fire. The closure will be assessed Sunday morning.
In Palos Verdes Estates, authorities issued an emergency proclamation Saturday ahead of the storm after a landslide Friday undermined a backyard and sent debris onto a beach just south of Torrance. An analysis of ground conditions determined that the slope, near Rosita Place, was actively shifting and at risk of imminent collapse. The storm is likely to increase the danger. The beach has been closed.
Weather officials say precipitation is expected to reach Southern California around 10 p.m. Saturday, with 1 to 3 inches of rain overnight on the coast and valleys and up to 6 inches near the foothills. Unlike the storm earlier this week that blew through Northern California but died down before hitting Los Angeles, this storm is expected to be much more stable.
“It will start to rain maybe in the evening, but the heaviest rain will be mostly overnight, probably before sunrise … and then some lighter showers tomorrow in the day,” said Kristen Stewart, meteorologist at the National Weather Service. in Oxnard, said Saturday. “And after that first cycle of rain…shower activity is possible until Sunday, and then possibly until Monday as well.”
A winter storm warning is in effect through Monday afternoon for the interior mountainous areas of Ventura, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties, where 8 to 16 inches of snow are expected to accumulate above 7,000 feet. Motorists should be prepared for icy roads and expect travel delays along Tejon Pass and the Grapevine area of Interstate 5.
Weather officials are cautiously optimistic about the state’s total rainfall so far this water year, which began Oct. 1. Downtown Los Angeles typically gets about 2 inches of rain at this time, Stewart said, and rainfall from this storm alone is expected to exceed that baseline.
The fresh snow expected this weekend could also be a much-needed boost to the Sierra Nevada snowpack, which is vital for long-term water storage as communities across California rely on the period of driest three years on record.
But many warn it’s too early to tell how much relief California could get from the drought. Cory Mueller, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento, noted that California had an extremely wet start to the winter – including record rainfall and even a “bomb cyclone” – which ultimately didn’t do much. something to fight drought.
“We had record snowpack in the Sierra at the end of last December, then…we saw nothing in the new calendar year,” Mueller said. “So it’s hard to get too excited, but this storm is a great start. We’ll take it where we can get it… and hopefully we can keep going.
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