Wild Wild West St. Patrick's Day Storm

March 17, 2012; 5:19 AM ET
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L.A., San Diego and other cities in California may look like this for a time this weekend. Rain will just be but part of the wild and wide-ranging storm.<br>Photo of California rain by Flickr user Steph[anie]

A dynamic storm in Southern California and the Southwest will yield a pot of gold in terms of moisture this St. Patrick's Day weekend, however it also threatens to cause big problems.

A storm with the potential to cause damage and major disruptions to travel is plowing through California.

While the storm is delivering a substantial amount of rain and snow to the region that is greatly needed, high winds, blowing dust, thunderstorms, chilly air and rough surf and seas are also accompanying it.

The storm may also bring flash flooding, power outages and a rash of motor vehicle accidents.

One or more rounds of drenching rain will continue to swing in from the Pacific Ocean this weekend, spreading through Southern California and northern Nevada today into tonight. In Arizona and southern Nevada, the rain will hit late this afternoon into Sunday. The storm will focus on New Mexico and Colorado late in the weekend.

RELATED:
Expert Senior Meteorologist Ken Clark's Western Weather Blog

Winds will increase today from southern California to Utah and New Mexico as the storm dives deeper into the Southwest. The winds will hit areas that are not typically affected by a Santa Ana wind event.

Gusts can be high enough, topping 65 mph in some locations, to knock down tree limbs and power lines, as well as roll over high-profile vehicles and kick up blinding dust in desert areas. Over the ocean, the winds will generate big waves that will crash ashore.

As colder air sweeps in with the storm, snow will lower to pass levels from California to Arizona and eventually into Utah, Colorado and perhaps New Mexico. Enough snow could fall to temporarily close the major arteries of I-5, I-15, I-17 and I-40. The snow will hit I-80 and Donner Pass first.

Problems on the roadways will not be limited to snow in the higher elevations. There is a risk of blinding, blowing dust in the desert areas, prior to when showers skip through including I-8 and I-10.

Enough rain can fall on the hillsides and canyon areas to cause flash flooding and mudslides. Flooding is possible on portions of roadways.

The storm can also pack locally severe thunderstorms capable of producing hail and frequent lightning strikes.

While the storm will cause plenty of major problems for the region, including wind challenges for runners in the Los Angeles Marathon, and foiled weekend plans for others, it will dump heavy snow on the mountains in the region.

A lack of snow in the area mountains and drought in general this winter goes without saying.

This storm has the potential to put down a yard or more of snow in the high country and will give the late-season skiing industry a big boost.


Snow will reach the higher elevations in Arizona, including the Grand Canyon later this weekend. Snowflakes could mix down to Las Vegas, Nev. as well.

The storm will eventually give reservoirs and area lakes and streams a lift as the snow melts off in the weeks ahead.

The rain will also be of great benefit for agriculture.

During the first part of next week the storm system will bring the risk of severe weather, high winds and wildfire danger to western and northern Texas and the southern Plains. Similar to the situation in the Southwest, the storm will also bring an opportunity for some needed rain in the South Central states.

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