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El Nino to send several rounds of rain to California during early January

By By Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
January 03, 2016, 10:52:25 AM EST

Storms packing rain, fueled in part by El Niño, will take aim at California during the first week of January.

The above-average temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean, known as El Niño, tends to strengthen the storm track into the West Coast and occasionally California during the winter.

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While the storms are unlikely to deliver drought-busting rainfall, they will deliver some beneficial rain to not only coastal Southern California but also farther inland over desert areas to Arizona and New Mexico.

The storms will bring doses of snow to the mountains in the region, which will assist in runoff and drought relief this spring.


According to AccuWeather Chief Long Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok, "It appears that three to four storms will roll ashore from the Pacific Ocean with the first storm due Sunday night into Monday."

Rainfall from Sunday night to Tuesday will be light across Southern California. The storm is more likely to track to the south of California and bring heavier rain from Baja California, Mexico into Arizona and New Mexico.

Some rain and mountain snow will also fall in part of northern California.


San Francisco can expect wet weather to commence Monday night and continue through Wednesday. By Wednesday, snow could be heavy enough to impact travel over Donner Pass, along Interstate 80.

The last storm of the train will affect the area during on Friday.

"The mid- to late-week storms will be slowest moving, but also the strongest, coldest and farthest-reaching of the bunch," Pastelok said.

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Rainfall from the storms spanning Wednesday to Friday will average 1-2 inches across California with the potential for double that amount in the west and southwest facing slopes of the mountains.

Snow levels will lower to pass levels in Southern California by Thursday. A heavy accumulation of snow is possible over the southern Sierra Nevada and the higher elevations along Interstate 40 in Arizona and New Mexico.

According to AccuWeather Meteorologist Dave Samuhel, "The storms during the second half of the week have the potential to unload 1-3 feet of snow on the mountains and ski resorts of Southern California."

In addition to wintry travel problems, enough rain will fall to raise the risk of sporadic urban flooding and a small number of mudslides.

Motorists will need to allow extra time for their commutes much of next week, due to wet roads and slick conditions.

The Southern California storm track will not lock in for the long term.

"In the wake of the late-week storm, the pattern will again adjust with another precipitation lull in Southern California, with a return to some storminess in the Northwest," Pastelok said.

As the storm track returns to the Northwest, temperatures will tend to rebound toward seasonable levels over Southern California toward the middle part of January. Chill is likely to continue over the interior West.

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