California storms could trigger floods, mudslides and bring 120-mph winds, forecasters warn

The storms didn’t pack the punch of the atmospheric rivers that swept across California in January.

But the first of two storms that arrived before sunrise Monday dropped much welcomed rain and snow from the Sacramento Valley and Sierra Nevada down to San Diego County.

After years of sustained drought, California’s landscape has been inundated with storm after storm since the beginning of the water year in October.

The Sierra Nevada snowpack — which provides a third of the state’s water in the warmer months when it melts — is at 173% of its historical average, and the range’s foothills are saturated with water.

The bulk of the state is on pace for its wettest year on record and reservoirs are at or above historical averages for this time of year.

“It’s a very beneficial type of rain. With any luck it doesn’t get any heavier,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Dave Bruno.

Foothill residents along the northern Sierra Nevada and the San Gabriel Mountains in Los Angeles County were warned Monday that mud and debris flows were possible in the short-term.

The city of Duarte issued a yellow alert Sunday night for residents in the impact area around last year’s Fish fire, limiting where residents could park their vehicles and place their trash cans.

The National Weather Service issued a flood advisory for Ventura County through Monday morning that cautioned water could pond on roads, highways and other low lying areas.

But Southern California’s rain was only a sprinkling of what the Bay Area and beyond experienced, said Steve Anderson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

The storm that soaked the Southland was expected to drop up to 2 inches of rain around downtown San Francisco and up to 5 inches in the coastal hills of central and Northern California by Tuesday afternoon, Anderson said.

Though the storm is a warm “atmospheric river,” meaning it flows east from warm waters in the Pacific and brings more rain than snow, it is still expected to add up to 3 feet to the Sierra snowpack, Anderson said.

The storm is expected to stretch across most of the state and could trigger floods in streams and rivers up north, the weather service said.

The storm, followed by another one on Thursday and Friday, could overwhelm the Sacramento River in some areas and cause flooding in Susanville, according to the California Nevada River Forecast Center.

A winter storm warning was issued for the Northern Sierra Nevada, where wind gusts up to 120 mph could blast across mountain peaks, the weather service warned. Mountain passes could be snowed out and drivers were urged to bring chains.

According to the latest U.S. Drought Report, this winter’s rains have alleviated drought conditions for most of Northern California and made a significant dent in the southern half.

joseph.serna@latimes.com

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna on Twitter.

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UPDATES:

1:20 p.m.: This article was updated with Northern California’s forecast.

This article was originally published at 6:55 a.m.

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