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Presidents Day weekend weather: Storms bringing light rain to SoCal, snow to Tahoe

A young boy stands on a picnic table by a lake while his family feeds birds.
Areg Mnatsakanyan, 2, joins his father Gor, center, and grandfather Hovo to feed birds during a lull in the rain on Jan. 29 at Lake Balboa. Light rain is expected on Friday in the Southland.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

A winter storm moving across California is expected to bring light rain to the Los Angeles area and snow to the Sierra Nevada, potentially buffeting skiers’ holiday weekend travel plans.

Beginning Thursday, a “very weak” rain system is expected to hit the L.A. area, according to Rich Thompson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

“The storm doesn’t look like a big rain producer,” Thompson said.

Clouds will increase across Southern California throughout Thursday as the storm approaches. There is a chance for light showers Thursday night and Friday morning, with most areas receiving under a tenth of an inch. Mountain areas might get a little more, Thompson said.

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As that storm front rolls out, a new system is expected in the area as early as Saturday night through Sunday morning.

Like the first storm, this system “looks really, really weak. Any shower activity will stay in the mountains,” which are expected to receive less than a quarter-inch of rain, Thompson said.

“You’re not going to see a lot of rainfall anywhere from these systems,” he said.

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It’s a slightly different story at higher elevations, however. Up to 2 inches of snow could fall above 5,500 feet, and there’s a chance for light snowfall over the 5 Freeway section of the Grapevine during the holiday weekend, Thompson said

Those traveling to Northern California are urged to be cautious. The storm will likely dump snow across the Sierra throughout much of the weekend and could affect travel.

“If you must travel, have an emergency kit and leave plenty of extra time,” the weather service tweeted.

Precipitation is expected to move into the Lake Tahoe basin Thursday afternoon before spreading south. As much as 5 inches of snow could fall at lower levels near the lake. Between 6 and 12 inches are predicted at elevations higher than 7,000 feet.

Mountain peaks could get up to 18 inches of fresh powder, according to Chris Johnston, a meteorologist for the weather service in Reno.

Sierra ridge wind gusts could reach as high as 100 mph, with winds between 25 and 35 mph in the valleys, forecasters said.

A winter weather advisory is in effect for the greater Late Tahoe area beginning at 4 p.m. Thursday and lasting through early Friday.

“The hazardous conditions could impact the evening commute,” the weather service warned. “Gusty winds could bring down tree branches.”

Meteorologists also warned of hazardous boating conditions at Lake Tahoe, with waves between 2 and 4 feet.

“Lake conditions will remain choppy much of the holiday weekend,” according to an advisory.

A new storm could bring 6 to 12 additional inches of snow to much of the area, beginning Saturday. That front will also bring gusty conditions, with 30- to 40-mph winds expected at lower elevations and gusts between 40 and 50 mph above 7,000 feet, Johnston said. Mountain peaks may again see 100-mph winds.

A third, more “meager” storm system will move into the Sierra Nevada beginning Monday, Johnston said.

That system is expected to bring between 6 and 8 inches of new snow to the mountains above 7,000 feet, while lower elevations could get up to 3 inches.

“The storm systems are hitting at a weird angle,” Johnston said. “It’s not like the atmospheric river we had in January, where it was a slam dunk for snowfall.”


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