Angelenos will get a brief reprieve from soggy weather Thursday after a series of storms dampened the region over the past week, but forecasters say we shouldn’t get used to it.
The rain convoy is continuing as a cold front from the Pacific Northwest begins to move into California on Friday. The northern part of the state is expected to see the first rain early Friday. The storm will roll into Southern California by Friday night and will linger across the state through Sunday, bringing widespread rain and snow, according to the National Weather Service.
Los Angeles and Ventura counties are expected to get less than a quarter-inch of precipitation, while San Luis Obispo County could see up to an inch in most areas and up to 2 inches in the foothills.
The storm won’t be as strong as the atmospheric-river-fueled system that pounded the Golden State with rain this week, causing widespread flooding, road closures and traffic nightmares.
However, officials in northern Sonoma County are concerned about possible flash flooding in the area recently burned in the Kincade fire. The weather service has issued a flash flood watch for the region, warning of rainfall rates between half an inch and three-quarters of an inch per hour Friday evening through early Saturday, when the heaviest rain is expected.
The pounding rain could lead to rockslides, debris flows and flash flooding in the burn scar and locations downstream of the burn area, the weather service warned.
The area managed to come out unscathed during last month’s storms and this week’s atmospheric river, said Suzanne Sims, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Francisco.
“They didn’t get the brunt of it in those storms,” she said. “Let’s hope it stays that way.”
While damage was minimal, the atmospheric river that hit the state this week dumped steady rain and snow across the region. Portions of Los Angeles and Ventura counties received more than an inch of rain in 48 hours with that system. The Chatsworth reservoir was doused with nearly 2 inches of rain, while Pine Mountain Club in Ventura County saw more than 3 inches by Wednesday night.
Portions of Northern California were hit even harder. The storm shattered a precipitation record in Paso Robles, dumping 1.27 inches of rain on the region Wednesday. The previous record for the day, set in 1951, stood at 0.84 inches, according to the weather service.
A deluge of rain fell so quickly in Monterey County that a portion of the 101 Freeway flooded, forcing officials to close the stretch through the town of Chualar for several hours Wednesday evening. Video from KSBW-TV showed drivers plowing through the water, which had covered the highway and was up to the wheel wells of the vehicles.
“A thunderstorm just parked over an agricultural area that wasn’t draining well,” Sims said. “It was just too much for the fields to handle, and it flooded the highway.”
Despite the heavy rain over the past several weeks, the majority of the state remains abnormally dry, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
With the next storm, snow levels are expected to remain at about 7,000 feet for much of the state, meaning that ski resorts will likely see fresh powder. However, snow levels across Northern California could drop as low as 5,500 feet by Saturday night. Most areas are expected to see a foot to 3 feet of snow, said Edan Weishahn, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Reno.
“If people heading to the mountains can complete their traveling Friday evening, they can probably avoid most of the disruptions in travel,” she said. “We had a lot of travel delays and closures last weekend, and I think a lot of people got caught off-guard. Sometimes you can get caught having to hunker down in your car for hours at a time.”
Officials said anyone traveling to the mountains should have a winter car kit with tire chains, snacks, water, blankets and heavy cold-weather attire.