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    California Faces Major Heavy Rain Event, Flooding

    By By Heather Buchman, Meteorologist
    December 17, 2010, 10:38:51 AM EST

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    A major heavy rain event is starting to get under way across California today. Rounds of soaking rain are headed for the state through at least the middle of next week and will pose a significant threat for flooding.

    The heaviest rain is expected to target central California with the western slopes of the Sierra being hit the hardest. Rainfall totals, according to AccuWeather.com Western Expert Ken Clark, could reach at least 6 inches on these western slopes with the potential for up to a foot in some locations.

    With millions of people traveling and doing last minute shopping for the holidays next week, roads will be jammed with traffic. Any flooding problems could create nightmares for motorists, including those driving along I-5.

    Roads near rivers and in low-lying areas will be most prone to flooding. Rock and mud slides could also become major problems.


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    Even where flooding does not occur, there will be a higher risk for vehicle accidents due to slippery wet roads.

    California is coming off a long period of overall dry conditions over the last month and a half. AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski points out that oil often builds up on roadways following many days without rain.

    He says that on the onset of a rainstorm, roads can become extremely slippery due to the oil buildup. Eventually, however, the buildup will get washed away after enough rain falls.

    The heavy rain and periodic gusty winds, especially along the coast and in the mountains of central and northern California, are also likely to create airport delays.

    Clark said in his blog Wednesday that the heaviest rain will most likely target a zone spanning from the San Francisco Bay area to the Tahoe or Yosemite area on south to Point Conception and the southern Sierra.

    However, rain will also affect areas farther south through Los Angeles and San Diego and farther north into western Oregon.

    In the higher elevations of the Sierra and mountains of northern California, tremendous amounts of snow will fall this weekend with totals reaching 5 to perhaps even 10 feet by Sunday.

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