Santa Claus better pack an extra coat and an umbrella in his sleigh on Christmas Eve because he’s in for a wet — and in some places white — ride in California.
Some Californians dreaming of a white Christmas can expect to get their wish this holiday season as a northern Pacific storm that brought rain Monday is forecast to drop fresh powder in the state’s mountainous regions beginning late Christmas Eve and continuing through Christmas Day.
Light snow could accumulate near the Grapevine, but higher elevations in Southern California will see between 1 and 3 inches of powder, according to the National Weather Service. Eight to 12 inches of snow are expected at elevations above 6,000 feet across much of the Sierra Nevada. Travelers should be cautious as mountain roads will be icy with blowing snow from strong winds gusting up to 60 mph, the weather service said.
“Some people will be having a white Christmas this year,” said Bonnie Bartling, a weather specialist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.
That’s good news for the state, as the Sierra Nevada is the key source of water for California, which is still recovering from years of drought conditions.
The snowpack measured 106% of average, according to the state’s snow survey taken early this month. That’s more than double the 47% of average measured on the same day last year.
A storm system will bring strong, potentially damaging N winds to the area Mon night & Christmas Day, along with mainly light rainfall & snow above 4,000 feet. Mountain roads will be dangerous - icy with blowing snow! #SoCal #CAwx #LAsnow pic.twitter.com/DMjhTFJA4F— NWS Los Angeles (@NWSLosAngeles) December 24, 2018
The wet weather can cause anxiety for those in recent burn zones, but rainfall rates aren’t expected to be severe enough to trigger devastating debris flows, forecasters said.
However, the weather service on Monday issued a flash flood watch for the area recently burned in the Mendocino Complex fire as the storm moves through Northern California. The forecast warns of possible scattered thunderstorms, which could bring stronger showers along with gusty winds up to 45 mph and hail in the region through the evening.
The storm is expected to make its way into the Central Coast and southern portion of the state just in time for Christmas morning. So instead of a white Christmas, the Southland could see a drizzly one.
Less than a quarter of an inch of precipitation is expected to fall across the region before the weather clears up Wednesday. Rain in Los Angeles County will be relatively light, and some areas might not see any precipitation at all, but it’s still going to be chilly, Bartling said.
Temperatures in the mid- to low 60s are expected to descend on the region starting Tuesday and persist through the week.
“People should enjoy [Monday] because it’s going to be our last nice day for a while,” Bartling said.