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Warmth to precede new train of storms in western US this week

By Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
February 13, 2017, 4:50:56 AM EST

Warmth and dry weather will set up over much of the western United States ahead of a new train of storms set to begin later this week.

The last gasps of moisture from the caboose in the most recent storm train will bring rain and a wintry mix to New Mexico and western Texas on Monday.

Break from the storms to last through first half of the week

Dry air will build over much of the region and will allow road crews and property owners to clean up the damage from the storms thus far this winter.

The break in the storms will allow travel to be easier, when compared to recent weeks in the West.

The dry weather is also good news for crews and neighboring residents monitoring the dam at Lake Oroville, whose main spillway was damaged during the barrage of storms this winter.

Since the air settling in is not abnormally cold to begin with, sunshine will help to warm the air further, according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Jim Andrews.

West early week Feb 12

"Where a breeze develops and helps to mix the air, temperatures have the potential to challenge record highs," Andrews said. "Some of the places that have a chance at record highs this week include the eastern slopes of the Rockies."

Later in the week, temperatures are forecast to rebound into the 60s and 70s in Denver.

Another zone where temperatures will spike will be in coastal Southern California on Sunday, due to a Santa Ana wind event. Temperatures will climb into the 70s on Sunday into Monday.

Although records are not likely to be broken in Salt Lake City and Seattle, highs will be in the 50s on multiple days.

"The rise in temperatures will continue to cause localized flooding due to melting snow and ice jams in the Intermountain West," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski said. "Low-lying and poor drainage areas, as well as locations along streams and rivers are most at risk for the flooding."

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Melting snow and heavy rain runoff is also leading to flooding issues in California's Central Valley. Until the soil has time to dry out, mudslides and landslides are other concerns.

Motorists may also have to contend with reduced visibility from fog in some of the valleys during the late-night and morning hours.

"It is possible that the fog lingers into the afternoon in some of the deepest valleys of the Northwest, spoiling the mild spell," Pydynowski said.

The warm pattern will be spurred on by a large northward bulge in the jet stream across the western U.S. and Canada.

The jet stream is a fast river of air at the level in the atmosphere where jets cruise at.

Pacific storms with heavy rain and snow to return later this week

During the second half of the week, the jet stream will collapse southward.

As this happens, temperatures will trend downward and moisture from the Pacific Ocean will again flow toward the West Coast.

Static West storms return

As the pattern evolves during the second half of February, the storms may again become potent enough to renew rounds of flooding rain, heavy mountain snow and gusty winds.

The next batch of rain may reach coastal areas of the Northwest by the middle of the week. However, it may not be until the end of the week or next weekend before the first strong storm system moves in.

The relentless storms from late this past fall to this point of the winter have dismantled the drought across northern California and have greatly reduced the long-term drought in Southern California, according to the United States Drought Monitor.

Less than 1 percent of California remains in extreme drought as of Feb. 7.

Since the middle of November, rainfall and mountain snowfall has averaged 150 to 300 percent of normal in California. The rainfall has filled reservoirs and allowed officials to release water for the first time in years.

"The dam at Lake Oroville, north of Sacramento, California, has been operating in crisis mode," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Ken Clark.

The lake rose to the level that allowed water to flow down an emergency spillway and into the Feather River for the first time since the dam was finished in 1968, according to California's Department of Water Resources (DWR).

"The break in the stormy pattern will slow the flow of water into the lake and may lend some hope to authorities trying to manage the problem," Clark said. "However, with more storms to come this winter and snowmelt this spring, there may be more problems ahead for this lake and others."

It has rained every day from Feb. 1-10 in San Francisco and all but one day during the same period in Sacramento.

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