California Welcomes Rain, Braces for Flooding

By By Brian Lada, Meteorologist
December 05, 2014, 10:44:34 PM EST

Drenching rain will fall on much of California into Wednesday, bringing some relief to the ongoing drought and raising the risk of flash flooding.

While a series of storms brought rain to parts of northern and central California over the past few weeks, this system will bring the first significant rain event for Southern California since the spring.

Some rain moved over part of the state on Sunday ahead of this week's storm, giving a preview of what is to come.

According to the Associated Press, residents in foothill cities northeast of Los Angeles placed sandbags in the days leading up to the storm to protect properties from rain and flooding.

Part of the Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu, California, was closed on Sunday afternoon due to multiple rockslides, according to Mike Lindbery, public information officer for the Ventura County Fire Department. Several cars were blocked in, but the passengers were able to get out with no reported injuries according to Lindbery.

Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Fresno could all receive over an inch of rain from this storm with some locations receiving 4 inches by Wednesday night. The greatest amount of rain will fall on the west- and southwest-facing slopes of the coastal ranges.

The rain will come down hard enough to cause isolated urban and flash flooding, as well as raise the risk of rockslides and mudslides. The risk of rockslides and mudslides will be greatest in recent wildfire burn areas.

Dependent on where the mudslides occur, they can block roadways forcing motorists to find alternate routes to reach their destination.

This was the case in the Angeles National Forest on Tuesday when rocks caused disruptions along Mt. Wilson Road.

Rain flooded several roadways in the San Francisco area on Tuesday morning. Some flooding also occurred in the mountains east of Los Angeles and San Diego later on Tuesday and into Tuesday night.

Although the heaviest rain has ended, additional rainfall through Wednesday can lead to more incidents of flash flooding.

Snow levels will lower as the storm progresses, but will remain above the passes in Southern California and will barely reach Donner Pass along Interstate-80.

Heavier snow is expected to fall over the higher elevations of the Sierras, good news for some of the ski resorts along the mountain range.


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Travel disruptions are possible through Wednesday with rain reducing visibility for drivers and causing delays at the airports.

Spotty, less-intense rain will spill well inland, reaching the desert areas of Palm Springs, California and Las Vegas.

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While this single rain event will likely have a small impact on the long-term drought, it will have a higher impact in the short term.

Many cities across California have only received a fraction of the rainfall that they typically have during the month of November.

City
Rainfall in November
Percent of Normal
Los Angeles 0.18 17%
San Diego 0.37 37%
San Francisco 0.87 37%
Fresno 0.39 36%
Palm Springs 0.07 13%
Bakersfield 0.01 2%

Rainfall totals are for the month of November through Nov. 28.

This storm could turn out to produce the biggest rain event in Los Angeles since the end of February when a system dumped over 4 inches on the city.

It will take much more rain and high-country snow than this storm can produce to alleviate the long-term drought conditions.

Fortunately, this part of the country is beginning to enter their rainy season, meaning that there is a greater change for more storms like this one than have been seen over the past several months.

Drier conditions are forecast to return to much of California by Thursday, making for better conditions for those looking to spend time outdoors.

However, a few showers may linger around over northern California and along the state's coast as the storm tracks across the Plains.

The pattern through at least the middle of December is likely to yield additional storms Pacific loaded with moisture taking aim on California.

AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski contributed content to this story.

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