California bracing for more rain, mountain snow as 2 storms loom
Some wet weather is forecast for the state this weekend before a bigger storm arrives early next week.
A brief break from the seemingly endless barrage of drought-busting and deadly storms in California is set to end this weekend as the first of two incoming storms from the Pacific moves on shore.
AccuWeather experts say that additional rounds of heavy rain and mountain snow are in store for the hard-hit state, and a storm that will occur from Tuesday into Wednesday will be the more powerful of the two. The most recent atmospheric river to impact the state lasted from this past Monday through Wednesday and came on the heels of another atmospheric river that slammed the state last Friday, March 10.
"This new round of snow and rainfall is set to affect areas that received heavy amounts of precipitation just last week," AccuWeather Meteorologist Aaron Druckmiller said.
The cumulative effect of the intense precipitation amounts throughout the winter months has led to remarkable improvements in the long-term drought that plagued California prior to the start of winter. According to the latest report published by the United States Drought Monitor on March 16, approximately 36% of the state is in drought compared to 98% at the beginning of October.
AccuWeather meteorologists believe that all or much of California may be drought-free by the start of the summer season.
"Short-term pain, long-term gain. All of this wetness has completely obliterated what was a very significant drought in California," AccuWeather Chief On-Air Meteorologist Bernie Rayno said.
The additional precipitation expected in the coming days will continue to result in drought improvements while also exacerbating the negative impacts the state has dealt with amid the relentless pattern, including frequent flooding, mudslides and destructive winds.
AccuWeather meteorologists say that a storm from Sunday to Monday will end the brief reprieve from wet weather, spreading moderate rainfall across Northern and Central California with a resurgence of snow in the high terrain.
A stronger, more moisture-laden storm will quickly follow on its heels by Tuesday. The track of this storm will direct the heaviest precipitation into central and southern portions of the state.
There will be a direct feed of tropical moisture into California with this storm next week, according to Rayno.
"AccuWeather meteorologists have increasing concerns about the risk of flooding across Southern California from a new atmospheric river set to arrive from Tuesday into Wednesday. Much of the moisture from this new storm is likely to be focused in Southern California, already recovering from this week’s heavy rain and localized flooding, as opposed to areas further north," AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Jonathan Porter said.
The heaviest rain on Tuesday is likely to center on areas from Monterey, California, southward to the Los Angeles Basin and the high terrain of Southern California. About 2 to 4 inches of rain can fall in portions of this corridor, as well as across the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada. The AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 10 inches is most likely along the southwest-facing slopes of the mountains in Southern California.
"This heavy rain is set to result in difficult travel, with renewed flooding making some roads inundated and thus impassable," Druckmiller said.
"Given recent rains and saturated ground, the threshold for additional rainfall that can produce a significant risk for flooding is reduced. Creeks, streams and dry washes, especially in the higher elevations, can rise rapidly resulting in quickly escalating life-threatening flash flooding in some areas. Mudslides, rockslides and road closures may occur once again," Porter said.
Trees sitting in saturated soil will also become more susceptible to falling in the moderate wind gusts which are expected with this storm.
Colder air wrapping around the center of the storm will result in another dose of heavy snowfall for mountain communities that have been cut off in some instances due to the volume of snow that has fallen.
Snow is going to be heaviest in the southern Sierra where another couple of feet of snow could accumulate, according to Rayno.
Travel over Interstate 80's Donner Pass may become impossible later Tuesday into Tuesday night as heavy snow rates could make it difficult for road crews to keep the highway clear.
"Some of the mountain passes that cut through the Sierra are expected to become hazardous or even closed due to the continued snowfall in the region," Druckmiller said.
Percentages above normal for the Sierra snowpack as of March 16, 2023.
The additional bouts of wintry weather will further increase the snowpack in the Sierra, which is running as high as 272% above the historical average in southern portions of the mountain range.
"I'm really concerned that we're going to be dealing with flooding in many of the rivers here in California as we head through spring because we have such a tremendous amount of snow that will be melting in the Sierra," Rayno said.
AccuWeather's team of long-range forecasters says more storms are likely to impact the state right through the end of the month.
Want next-level safety, ad-free? Unlock advanced, hyperlocal severe weather alerts when you subscribe to Premium+ on the AccuWeather app. AccuWeather Alerts™ are prompted by our expert meteorologists who monitor and analyze dangerous weather risks 24/7 to keep you and your family safer.Report a Typo
Top StoriesMore Stories
Featured TopicTips to cope with winter weather