All signs now point to the good possibility of a strong Santa Ana wind event setting into Southern California late Wednesday night and Thursday. Models that have been oscillating back and forth on the coming weather are pretty much in line with each other, at least from Wednesday through Friday.
A strong low now moving toward the Washington Coast takes a right turn and sharply digs south tomorrow and tomorrow night coming along the Nevada/California border before ending up over the southeast deserts of California Thursday. This will be set up about as perfect of a high wind situation as one can get. This certainly is shaping up as a once-in-a-decade type wind storm if everything falls in place as it is looking right now. The strongest winds are most likely in Ventura, Los Angeles and Orange Counties and across the Inland Empire in all Santa Ana wind prone areas. It is less sure how windy it will get farther south in San Diego county.
Strong midlevel winds on the back side of the closed low moves over parts of Southern California during the time. This will be accompanied by a very strong pressure gradient, strong cold advection and rapidly sinking air. These are the four biggies that one looks at for predicting the winds. Models are indicating winds of 40 to 50 mph 1,500 to 2,500 feet above sea level and that's before they get squeezed through passes and canyons and also accelerated by the sinking air. Winds of 30 to 60 mph with gusts to 70 mph seem most likely in the populated areas but I could see wind gusts up to 90 mph on the top of some of the non-populated mountain tops.
Here is what the MM5 is predicting for winds at 5 a.m. Thursday in Southern California. There are colors appearing that coincide with winds speeds that I rarely see this model predict.
Winds of this magnitude will cause damage and widespread travel and power disruptions. High profile vehicles will be forced to not travel and even traveling in cars in the windy areas will be dangerous. There are likely to be power outages, and perhaps widespread power outages, along with damage from trees and power lines coming down and also structural damage. Windy conditions will exist elsewhere too, just not as severe, like all coastal areas and in the upper deserts and parts of the lower deserts. Expect winds 15-30 mph with higher gusts to 40 in those areas.
With the closed low over southeast California Thursday night and Friday, it is not out of the question enough moisture wraps west to bring scattered showers to the eastern mountains and parts of the deserts. Of course, anything that falls in the mountains above 3,500 feet would be snow showers.
Take precautions now if you live in these areas. Take objects in that might become airborne missiles in strong winds. Know there will be driving problems and act accordingly. Be prepared for the power to go out. If it does not go out, fine....at least you are prepared ahead of time and you are ready if it occur.
Now, two weeks later, here is more evidence that the short period of rain and mountain snow had little impact.
Weather parameters are coming together for a period of strong Santa Ana winds
In fact, if our models are right Southern California will not have any chance of rain before sometime during the week of March 17.
It is unrealistic to think one series of storms is going to have a huge impact on the long-term drought.
The second of two storms has been rapidly intensifying west of California Thursday.
It is because of these dynamics and available moisture that I think some of the south-facing slopes of the foothills and mountains could see higher rainfall than what even I had yesterday.