California is already facing heavy rain, strong winds and flooding with a major storm expected to hit late Wednesday. Now there's a blizzard warning.
The National Weather Service has issued the warning for northern communities above 6,000 feet including Lassen National Park, Donner Pass, Echo Summit and Carson Pass.
The warning will be in effect from 10 p.m. Wednesday until 1 p.m. Friday. The weather service said residents could expect whiteout conditions, which could lead to roadway closures lasting several hours.
Ten to 20 inches of snow could accumulate in communities above 6,000 feet. The northern Sierra crest could get 2 to 3 feet of snow, with the heaviest snowfall Thursday night. The strongest winds are expected Wednesday night and Thursday. Forecasters say the area will have 20 to 25 mph winds with gusts of 80 mph of higher.
Snow levels are expected to drop to 4,500 to 5,500 feet on Thursday night and Friday morning.
The National Weather Service is reporting that the winter storm will hit Northern California hard, dumping up to 7.69 inches of rain in the Sierra Nevada and more than 3 inches in the Bay Area.
"This storm still looks like it could be the strongest storm we've seen in several years," said the NWS office in Sacramento.
The winter storm has an "atmospheric river," which can be up to 400 miles wide and can cause major flooding when stalled over an area, according the weather service.
The rivers are relatively narrow regions in the atmosphere responsible for transporting water vapor horizontally outside the tropics, NWS says. On the West Coast, the weather event is also known as the Pineapple Express.
Forecasters say the Northern San Joaquin Valley, Sacramento area and Sierra Nevada could experience widespread power outages and flooding. A flash flood warning was issued for portions of Northern California as a result of the anticipated heavy rainfall.
In Los Angeles and Ventura counties, the cold storm should bring 1 to 2 inches of rain along the coast and 2 to 4 inches in the mountains and foothills Thursday night into early Friday, meteorologist Scott Sukup said.
"It will be a pretty significant rainfall event for us," he said.
Periods of moderate to heavy rain could last up to six hours, increasing the risk of debris flows in communities recently scorched by wildfires. By Friday morning, most of the heavy rain is expected to diminish.
Wind gusts could reach up to 40 mph along the coast and more than 60 mph in the mountains, making driving conditions hazardous for vehicles with taller profiles, such as trucks.
Along the coast, the storm will bring rising surf, strong rip currents and beach erosion.
Surf could reach up to 12 feet Tuesday and rise to 10 to 15 feet on Wednesday and Thursday along the central coast.
Southern California may see some snow but mostly above 7,000 feet, Sukup said.
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