‘The most significant storm of the season’: The harsh weather coming to California on Tuesday

A plane takes off under heavy clouds from Long Beach Airport.
(Luis Sinco)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, Dec. 14. I’m Justin Ray.

If you are in California, chances are you are seeing precipitation. Photos show that for some, that means rainfall. For others, that means hefty snow.

A storm system that began in the Gulf of Alaska has worked its way into the Pacific Northwest and down through Northern California.

Let me start with the good news: The Times’ Alex Wigglesworth reports that fire officials say the system will lower the curtain on Southern California’s wildfire season. They believe that the southern portion of the state will see a reduced risk of large fires over the next couple weeks due to below-normal temperatures and near toslightly above-normal precipitation.

The bad news: Certain areas may be heavily affected by the weather system. What’s going to happen in your neck of the woods? Let me walk you through it:


Southern California

“The most significant storm of the season” is expected to blow into Southern California early Tuesday morning, weather officials said.

The main storm front will roll through Los Angeles County on Tuesday morning, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service Oxnard office previously told The Times. Residents can expect a constant deluge of rainfall until late Tuesday afternoon.

One to 3 inches of rain are forecast for the valley and coastal areas of the county, while the mountains may see 3 to 6 inches of precipitation, according to the weather service. Emergency officials in Los Angeles County released mud and debris flow forecasts for roads and neighborhoods near the mountain burn areas.

If you live in San Diego or Los Angeles, we have a live radar you may want to check out.

Northern California

The National Weather Service advised residents in the area that there may be “significant travel delays with extremely difficult to impossible travel over the mountains.” Additionally, strong winds will affect visibility.


Moderate to heavy snow showers are expected to continue into Tuesday; extreme conditions were expected to last until 10 p.m. today. The agency has extended winter storm warnings in Northern California, including in Shasta, Tehama and Trinity counties.

For the latest information on highway conditions, visit the California Department of Transportation website or call 1-800-427-7623.

Bay Area

When it comes to the Bay Area, the biggest concern is flooding. Cal Fire tweeted a video of two people in San Mateo County who were trapped in their vehicle by floodwaters.

“Reports of flooding on the highways and local roads continue to come in,” National Weather Service Bay Area tweeted. “Please do not attempt to drive through flooded roadways.”

The National Weather Service issued a flood watch for a large portion of the greater Bay Area, including the East Bay hills and the Diablo Range, San Francisco, the San Francisco peninsula coast, and the Santa Clara Valley including San Jose and the Santa Cruz Mountains.

On Monday, KTVU meteorologist Steve Paulson said on Twitter that San Francisco already had surpassed the total rainfall last season, which amounted to 8.96 inches. He added: “More on the way today and tomorrow.”

Central California


Widespread rain is expected to continue Tuesday in the area, according to the NWS. High winds have also caused the agency to issue wind advisories for the stretch of the San Joaquin Valley from Merced to Bakersfield and for the westside mountains along Interstate 5, according to the Fresno Bee.

Sustained winds are expected to blow from 15 to 25 mph in areas of Fresno, Merced, Kings, Kern, Madera and Tulare counties, according to the Bee. “Winds can blow around unsecured objects, cause tree limbs to blow down, and cause possible power outages,” NWS Hanford warned.

Yosemite Valley was expected to see 1 to 3 inches of snow between Monday and Tuesday, meteorologist Jim Bagnall told the Bee. Temperatures in Fresno may fall into the mid-30s overnight Tuesday into Wednesday.

A third system will move through late Wednesday afternoon after a brief break in the morning, ABC 30 reported. Showers will continue Thursday but should clear out by Friday.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.

Faced with rising coronavirus cases, California is ordering a statewide mask mandate for indoor public spaces to go into effect on Wednesday. The order will affect roughly half the state’s population, including San Diego and Orange counties, the Inland Empire, the Central Valley and rural Northern California. The statewide indoor mask mandate order will last a month and will expire on Jan. 15. Los Angeles County and most of the San Francisco Bay Area have their own indoor mask mandates that were implemented in the summer and have no end dates. The move comes as coronavirus case rates have risen by 50% in the last 2½ weeks. Los Angeles Times


With the Golden Globes still under a cloud after months of controversy, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. unveiled its nominations for the year’s achievements in film and television, even though its customary star-studded telecast presenting the awards has been scrapped for 2022. The embattled group of international journalists that hands out the Globes has been struggling to get back in Hollywood’s good graces since a Times investigation revealed the association had no Black members and detailed allegations of financial and ethical lapses within the group. Though the HFPA is set to hand out its awards Jan. 9 in a yet-to-be-determined ceremony, it is unclear at this point whether anyone will actually be on hand to accept them. Nevertheless, the nominees were announced, including a best actress in a motion picture nom for Lady Gaga (yay). Los Angeles Times

Golden Globe statuettes
Golden Globe statuettes on display.
(Frazer Harrison / Getty Images)

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‘Fraud, fortune and failures’: The EDD scandal. Since the beginning of Sept. 2020, TV station KCRA 3 has been trying to uncover the wave of problems created by the failures of California’s Employment Development Department, or EDD. With nearly 15 hours of interviews from 17 people — and dozens of hours of news footage — the station “tells the story of what is being called the worst fraud in California history.” This newly released project includes a timeline, an interactive quiz, and video. KCRA 3

One of Fresno’s most unique and architecturally significant buildings stands forlornly in the middle of a construction site. To untrained eyes, the Garcia Adobe isn’t much to look at. The house is dilapidated and neglected. But historians note two rooms in the structure: one built from adobe bricks with mud mortar and one made from chunks of hardpan. They deem it a valuable piece of San Joaquin Valley history dating to the 1920s. “That’s how working-class people built back then — with whatever they could find,” said Karana Hattersley-Drayton, Fresno’s historic preservation project manager. But those who want to preserve the building are concerned by the fact that a developer recently requested — and was denied — permission to demolish the building. Will the city preserve it? Fresno Bee

The Senate will hold a hearing today weighing Eric Garcetti’s nomination to be ambassador to India. Garcetti will appear with two other nominees for diplomatic posts. The mayor is likely to be asked about his tenure leading the nation’s second largest city, which has been battered by rising rates of violent crime and a homelessness crisis. And he is expected to face tough questions from Republicans about his relationship with Hunter Biden, the president’s son. Los Angeles Times


An NBC sports crew was robbed at gunpoint in Oakland, police said. The crew was on assignment in the Jack London Square area Saturday morning when three armed individuals took a camera from inside the crew’s vehicle. None of the crew members was holding the camera at the time and there were no injuries. The robbery marks the third incident involving news organizations in the city in the last two and a half weeks. Mercury News

‘Racing on the street — they killed innocent people.’ Two men have been arrested on suspicion of murder after a traffic collision in South Los Angeles that left a USC student dead. The incident was triggered by street racing, police said. Arian Rahbar, 21, was struck and killed about 3 p.m. Saturday. Rahbar was a junior at USC majoring in computer science and had recently accepted a summer internship at Facebook. The driver in that crash, 24-year-old Alvaro Batres-Garcia of Wilmington, was arrested on a charge of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. He was driving under the influence of alcohol at the time, authorities said. Los Angeles Times

Flowers and candles have been placed at the scene where a USC student was struck and killed.
Flowers and candles have been placed at the scene where a USC student was struck and killed by a motorist as he was walking home with groceries Saturday afternoon at the intersection of Jefferson and Harvard boulevards in Los Angeles.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

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California officials want to slash payments for rooftop solar power while adding incentives for homes and businesses to install batteries, saying the changes will help the state achieve 100% clean energy in a way that keeps the lights on, prevents electricity rates from spiraling out of control and also encourages people to drive electric cars. The proposal from Martha Guzman Aceves, one of five members of the California Public Utilities Commission, would revamp an incentive program called net energy metering that has helped the state become a national solar power leader, with more than 1.3 million rooftop and other small-scale systems installed. The solar industry and climate change advocacy groups have lobbied Gov. Gavin Newsom and his appointees on the utilities commission to keep the program’s basic tenets unchanged. Los Angeles Times


‘Daily Show’ correspondent takes on anti-vaxxers. While red states are usually pointed to as being the most anti-vaccine, we shouldn’t forget about the people in California who feel the same way. The comedy show’s correspondent Jordan Klepper traveled to Los Angeles to talk to people within the city’s wellness community. “Don’t watch the news because it’s brainwashing you with fear,” one person said. YouTube

A tax revolt is coming to California’s flailing cannabis industry. “It’s All Political” is a San Francisco Chronicle political podcast. For this episode, the paper talks to Mikey Steinmetz, co-founder of the Flow Kana cannabis brand. He discusses why legal weed sellers are at a disadvantage compared to illegal vendors, and how he plans to fix regulations on the industry within the state. SF Chronicle

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Los Angeles: Rainy, 58 San Diego: Rainy, 59 San Francisco: What is your favorite rainy day tune? Lemme know! Overcast, 50 San Jose: Rainy, 52 Fresno: Rainy, 50 Sacramento: 49. He got caught.


Today’s California memory is from Ginger Liu:

My British parents kept a photo album of Kodak color snaps with images of our family enjoying our life in Los Angeles between 1966 and 1969. I was a newborn Angeleno and my first memory of California was after our family returned to England and my mother would show me the photo book and share happy stories of our time in LA. It would be another 20 years before I saw it with my own eyes and another 10 years before I left England and moved to the Golden State to live my childhood dreams.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

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