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'River of moisture' to resume rounds of flooding rain, feet of snow in California during late January

By Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
January 15, 2017, 5:42:03 PM EST

    Following flooding, mudslides, sinkholes and yards of mountain snow unleashed by the recent series of storms, a new train of storms will arrive with a return of drenching rain and travel difficulties for the West Coast states during the second half of January.

    As the last storm in the recent series pushes towards Texas, areas from California to Washington will get a break in the weather for several days.

    Southwest Sun Jan 14

    A partly to mostly sunny sky will prevail away from where low clouds and fog sit stubbornly over some inland valleys on Sunday.

    Unlike recent previous winters, the break in the storms will not last long.

    "It appears a river of moisture will extend thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean from near Japan to northern California and Oregon this week," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Bernie Rayno.

    West Storm Jan. 15

    "While all of the storms may not tap into tropical moisture, they will still have a long time to grab moisture from the northern Pacific," Rayno said.

    Just as in recent weeks, one storm after another will roll in with bouts of drenching rain along the coast and across the Central Valley of California with heavy snow in the mountains.

    People living in or traveling to northern California, northern Nevada, Oregon and Washington can expect a renewed threat of flooding, mudslides and erosion.

    It will not take as much rainfall as the last batch of storms to bring streams and rivers out of their banks again. These streams will remain at rather high levels.

    Static Sac River Weir opening Jan. 10 AP

    A worker from the Department of Water Resources opens one of the flood gates of the Sacramento Weir, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, in West Sacramento, Calif. State officials opened the Sacramento Weir gates for the first time in more than a decade as stormy weather continues to lash Northern California and Nevada. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

    Some rain will also periodically slice into Southern California later in the week.

    "A storm could sweep through Southern California with a period of heavy rain and falling snow levels around Friday," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowsk said, "before targeting the Four Corners region."

    "The storms look cold this week," Rayno said. "After some warmth and average snow levels to start, colder air will bring snow levels down to intermediate and some low elevations."

    In addition to the risk of renewed flash, urban and stream flooding, more rounds of wintry travel are likely over the passes.

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    "Rain can freeze on some surfaces at the storm train's onset in Portland, Oregon, later on Monday, but there can be a longer duration of ice in the colder valleys of the interior Northwest, such as Wenatchee, Washington," Pydynowski said.

    During the new storm train, it will not take much wind to knock down trees as the ground will remain rather wet and unstable for root systems. Falling trees will pose a risk to pedestrians and property owners as well as raise the potential for sporadic power outages.

    Storms to further derail California drought

    Since Dec. 1, many areas in California have received between one and a half to three times their average precipitation. In Reno, Nevada, the rain and the water content of the snow has been nearly four times that of average.

    The rainfall this winter will continue to flow into streams, lakes and reservoirs.

    Already the rainfall has greatly reduced a several-year deficit. And, with more rain on the way this winter, additional rounds will work toward eliminating the long-term drought.

    The rainfall during the past week has all but eliminated the exceptional drought status in central and Southern California, according to the United States Drought Monitor. These areas still remain in severe to extreme long-term drought. Areas north of Interstate 80 in California are no longer considered to be in any level of drought.

    The biggest benefits are yet to come as mountain snowfall, as high as multiple building stories deep, slowly melts this spring and summer.

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