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Series of Pacific Storms Headed for California

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Heavy surf began pounding the Southern California coast Thursday ahead of the first in a series of intense Pacific storms expected to bring rain this weekend, New Year’s Day and beyond.

While the main force of the first storm is expected to hit Northern and Central California, Stephanie Hunter, a meteorologist with WeatherData Inc., said communities in the Los Angeles Basin should get between a quarter-inch and a half-inch of rain over the weekend.

Hunter said a second storm, farther out in the Pacific, should reach the Southland on New Year’s Day, bringing “a good shot” of more rain during the Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl game.

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“The way things look now, there could be rain on and off for the next week and a half or so,” Hunter said.

Meteorologists say it is still too early to say whether the storms are a sign that California’s prolonged drought may finally be coming to an end, but some forecasters say a normal rainy season is possible.

The first storm is expected to bring heavy rain to Central and Northern California, with totals of an inch or more expected in some coastal and foothill communities. Substantial snowfall is forecast along the Sierra at altitudes above 5,000 feet.

More heavy rain and snow are expected in Central and Northern California as the series of storms continue to blow in from the west, the National Weather Service said.

The Sierra snowpack--which provides much of the water used by Californians during the long, dry summer season--remains at only 47% of normal for this time of year, but the Weather Service said there is still a good chance of normal precipitation for the overall winter wet season.

The Weather Service said that temperature and wind measurements indicate the development of a moderate El Nino condition in the eastern Pacific.

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Moderate El Ninos usually lead to continuing Pacific storms that bring normal precipitation to Northern and Central California from January through March, the Weather Service said.

Waves generated by the approaching storms began arriving here before dawn Thursday, with surf up to six feet at some west-facing beaches and occasional swells up to eight feet.

Sprinkles from the first storm should start falling here before midnight tonight, with the heaviest rainfall on Saturday, Hunter said. Occasional showers are forecast through Sunday, with generally clear skies on Monday and Tuesday before the arrival of the next storm.

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