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Stormy pattern to aid California drought conditions, hinder travel into next week

By Faith Eherts, AccuWeather meteorologist
March 14, 2018, 8:25:53 PM EDT

With a return of long-term drought concerns for California, periods of wet, stormy weather into next week will be welcome by many.

A recent bout of heavy rain brought as much as one-third to 100 percent of the month’s normal precipitation to several cities, including Santa Barbara, San Diego and Los Angeles.

However, it will take many rounds of similarly heavy rainfall to bring the water supply back to necessary levels.

Residents may, therefore, be glad to know that a damp weather pattern is poised to settle over the western United States. Multiple storms are forecast to swirl in from the Pacific Ocean into the end of next week.

“The series of storms expected to impact California will not erase the precipitation deficit, but will at least help to add water to the reservoirs and snowpack to the mountains,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

Static Stormy Cali This Week 3 pm

"The pattern may bring significant help to drought-stricken areas but may also cause incidents of flash flooding and mudslides in recent burn scar locations," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Ken Clark.

Since the storms will tend to focus on the northern half of the state, “central and Northern California will benefit more from the stormy pattern than Southern California,” Doll said.

Static SW Thursday PL

While the heaviest precipitation will mainly occur north of the Los Angeles Basin, “communities such as Montecito, California, should still be prepared for the risk of debris flows,” warned AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

Mandatory evacuations were issued for areas in Santa Barbara County near the Thomas, Sherpa and Whittier burn scars ahead of the rain's arrival, according to ABC7.

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Slick roads and limited visibility in periods of rain will contribute to slowed commutes as well as airline delays.

Heavy precipitation is expected to be limited to high-elevation snowfall into Friday, adding feet of snowpack to parts of the Sierra Nevada.

"Snow levels will lower, but will probably hover below Donner Pass, California, much of the time," Clark said.

"There is the potential for snow levels to dip so much that snow may fall on the passes in Southern California late this week as well,” he said.

The series of storms is likely to drop 5 to 8 feet of snow on the high country in the Sierra Nevada. It is possible that Donner Pass may close from time to time to allow crews to clear the snow over the summit.

"Next week, it is possible the storm or storms may bring more substantial rainfall and mountain snow to Southern California," Sosnowski said.

Additional storms are likely to affect the Pacific coast and at least Northern California through the end of March.

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