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California to get hit with rare May rainstorm through Thursday

AccuWeather logo AccuWeather 5/15/2019 renee.duff
a close up of text on a white background: SW Wed © Provided by Accuweather, Inc SW Wed

California and surrounding states will get hit with a storm more typical of the winter months through Thursday.

Many cities could double or triple their normal precipitation for May in the span of a day or two.

Everything from rain and thunderstorms to wind and mountain snow will make for slower-than-normal travel, ruined outdoor plans and an increased risk of flooding and damage in some communities.

Rain, thunderstorms to soak San Francisco to San Diego

"This storm will bring unusually heavy rainfall and a flooding and mudslide threat to parts of California in what is normally a dry month," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jack Boston.

A widespread 0.50 of an inch to 2 inches of rainfall will be possible, with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 5 inches in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada and Northern California Coastal Range.

These amounts of rainfall are extremely out of the ordinary for this time of year. With the exception of far Northern California, average precipitation for May is generally under 0.75 of an inch across the state.

a close up of a map: Cali Storm Wed Thu © Provided by Accuweather, Inc Cali Storm Wed Thu

"One bull's-eye of heavy rainfall looks to be in the foothills east of the Sacramento Valley eastward into the Sierra," said AccuWeather Meteorologist and western U.S. blogger Brian Thompson.

"The Northern California coast will be another spot that could get hit pretty hard, from Mendocino northward through Eureka and Crescent City," Thompson added.

Over an inch of rain could fall around the San Francisco metro area, with 0.50 to 1 inch possible in Los Angeles and up to 0.50 of an inch expected in San Diego.

The timing of the rain can lead to a nightmare Thursday morning commute in Southern California.

People living near larger burn scars and low-lying flood prone areas along creeks and streams should closely monitor water levels and follow any evacuation notices that may be issued.

The wet weather will create poor driving conditions for motorists on stretches of Interstates 5 and 80 by reducing visibility and creating a heightened risk of hydroplaning while traveling at highway speeds.

"Travel will turn slippery with numerous delays on the roadways after the recent stretch of generally dry weather," said AccuWeather Meteorologist Kyle Elliott.

The potent nature of this storm can cause thunderstorms to bubble up along the coast and into the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys.

"There can be some isolated thunderstorms that produce small hail," Thompson said. Gusty winds can also be stirred, and it is not out of the question for an isolated tornado or waterspout to be spawned.

a large waterfall over some water: CA Satellite © Provided by Accuweather, Inc CA Satellite

A storm system approaches California early Wednesday, May 15, 2019. (Satellite/NOAA)

The rain and locally severe thunderstorm threat will spread inland toward Las Vegas and Salt Lake City, Utah, later Thursday into Friday.

Motorists should be especially cautious during the Thursday evening commute around Las Vegas, as heavy storms may be rolling through around that time.

Even in the absence of heavy thunderstorms, gusty winds being stirred by the storm from California to Nevada, Arizona and Utah, can create difficult travel and areas of blowing dust in the deserts.

The only effect of the storm around Phoenix will be to stir up breezy weather and dramatically cool things down from Thursday to Friday.

a close up of a map: US Late Week © Provided by Accuweather, Inc US Late Week

Snow to bury high terrain, lead to difficult travel

Enough cold air will plunge in with the storm for heavy snow to pile up across the high-country of the Sierra, including I-80's Donner Pass.

Snow levels will lower to 5,000-6,000 feet by Thursday night, according to Boston.

The worst traveling conditions are expected to occur above 6,000 feet, where there can be an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 12 inches of snow.

Travelers through the high terrain should use extreme caution as roadways will be slippery and snow covered with lane restrictions possible.

Commuters over Tejon and Cajon passes in Southern California should not have to contend with snowy roads, but will need to use caution due to rain slickening the pavement.

Are more storms to come?

Those eager for the region's more typical storm-free May weather should not get their hopes up anytime soon.

"The amazing thing is that there still may be more opportunities for rain behind this storm," Thompson said.

Yet another storm is expected to move in this weekend, followed by a third early next week.

These storms will ignite round after round of severe weather in the central U.S. once they emerge east of the Rockies and into the Plains.

Download the free AccuWeather app to stay alert of the forecast for your area. Keep checking back for updates on and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier and Verizon Fios.

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