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Next storm may bring hail to Southern California

Next storm may bring hail to Southern California
This week's showers will be light, but very cold. (Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

The next storm rolling through Southern California will bring less rain than the last, but meteorologists say Angelenos should be prepared for some unusual precipitation in these parts: hail.

The air is so cold that there is a potential for the frozen pellets, along with brief periods of heavy downpours and thunderstorms, said meteorologist Bonnie Bartling with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

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A series of storms, including a moisture-packed atmospheric river that slammed the state last week, has brought consistent rainfall in February that has reached nearly half the volume of Lake Tahoe. Los Angeles has received its fair share of the rain, with more than 4 inches falling on the Southland since Feb. 1.

California’s wild, wet winter has brought snow to the coast, white-out conditions in the Sierra and a plethora of rain to the drought-plagued state. But much of that rain is being wasted, with more than 80% of the region’s rainfall running off into the Pacific Ocean, according to climatologists.

Despite the recent rains, the atmosphere is “moisture starved” right now, Bartling said, meaning that in general, the storm moving in between Wednesday and Thursday night will bring only light rain, sprinkling less than a quarter-inch of water in the coasts and valleys. In the mountains and foothills, there’s a potential for up to half an inch of rain.

Snow levels will also be lowering to about 2,000 feet Thursday, and up to 6 inches of powder may fall in the eastern San Gabriel Mountains.

“The bottom line is it’s a very cold system coming down from Canada. The cold air aloft can destabilize the atmosphere,” which is what brings the potential for hail, she said. “It could happen anywhere.”

Temperatures will likely remain low through the week. By Friday, the highs will increase slightly to the mid-50s and low 60s, forecasters said.

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