Another disruptive storm has its sights set on the West Coast this week
By Faith Eherts, AccuWeather meteorologist
November 29, 2018, 2:09:58 PM EST
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A new round of soaking rain and heavy mountain snow for the West Coast is forecast to sweep much farther to the south than the last and reach Southern California and the deserts prior to the end of this week.
Rain and high-elevation snow have been buffeting Washington, Oregon and Northern and central California over the past several days, but until Wednesday night, Southern California had not received rainfall in nearly a week.
While the majority of California is experiencing moderate drought conditions as of Nov. 21, coastal areas from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara are still in an extreme drought.
"Much-needed rain is scheduled to reach Southern California and inland into the Great Basin and Desert Southwest through Thursday," said AccuWeather Meteorologist Jake Sojda.
The potential exists for nearly an inch of rain to fall in Los Angeles by Friday morning, which is more than the city has received from one storm since March. The city has received about just over 1 inch of rain since Sept. 1 - about 60 percent of normal for that time.
"People should anticipate major travel disruptions due to the extent of drenching rain across California from San Francisco and Sacramento to Los Angeles and San Diego on Thursday," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.
Anyone on the road should drive with extra caution, especially at the onset of rain. A buildup of oil on the roads mixed with the rain can make roads very slick.
Expect urban flooding to develop. The threat of flash flooding, mudslides and washouts will ramp up as well.
"Burn scars from wildfires in the last couple of years will be particularly vulnerable to flash flooding and mudslides with little to no vegetation to help anchor the soil," according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Maura Kelly.
The town of Montecito, California, was devastated by such an event last January.
Do not attempt to drive through a flooded roadway and be sure to heed all road closures.
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A few rumbles of thunder and gusty winds are not out of the question during periods of heavy rain.
Remember, if you can hear thunder you are close enough to be struck by lightning. Seek shelter at the first sign of stormy weather, especially if you are on the beach or in another open area.
"We expect rain to fall on Palm Springs, California, and even reach the Yuma, Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona, areas, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, as the storm turns eastward," Sosnowski said.
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The same storm will create gusty winds along the coast and over the mountains.
Winds can be strong enough to break tree limbs and know over weakly-rooted trees. Sporadic power outages cannot be ruled-out.
Winds will create large waves over the Pacific Ocean and push them toward the California coastline. Seas will become too rough for small craft and for bathers.
Wintry weather expected at areas up and away from the coast
This system will bring chillier weather into California and the San Joaquin Valley as well. On Wednesday, the temperature failed to reach 60 F in Fresno for the first time this season.
Several inches of snow are in the forecast for the highest terrain of the Sierras. While ski resorts will rejoice, falling snow levels will create even more travel headaches where passes remain open.
"Donner Pass could be measuring snow in feet by Friday morning, and it’s not out of the question that the pass would need to be shut down for a time Thursday into Thursday night, when the bulk of the snow is expected to fall there," Sojda said.
However, this time, heavy snow is forecast to also reach the southern Sierra Nevada and snow will fall on lower elevations farther to the east of the mountain chain.
"Rain and snow from this system will move into Nevada and Utah through Thursday afternoon," Kelly said.
Precipitation type will be greatly dependent on elevation across Nevada and Utah, where many will experience a slow changeover from rain to snow. In higher terrain, the precipitation will start out as snow.
"Snow levels could drop low enough, far enough south to bring some snow-capped peaks just outside of Las Vegas," Sojda added.
Rain and snow will taper off across California Thursday night as the storm continues to move inland, spreading snow across the Rocky Mountains, including into northern Arizona and New Mexico, according to Kelly.
Flagstaff, Arizona, could receive several inches of snow through Friday.
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