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More rain headed to Southern California this week. Forecasters call it 'March Madness'

Los Angeles Times logo Los Angeles Times 3/16/2020 By Luke Money, Los Angeles Times

A cold storm will slip in just under the winter wire this week, bringing widespread rainfall to Southern California and a potential dusting of snow to the Grapevine.

The storm moved in over Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties early Monday morning, prompting the National Weather Service to issue a flood advisory for the area. However, forecasters didn't seem to think there was a significant risk.

"We like this kind of rain," said John Dumas, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard. "It's not really intense; we're not overly concerned about burn scars or things like that. It's been a nice, steady rain."

The storm is expected to trek into Ventura and Los Angeles counties later in the day, eventually hitting downtown Los Angeles by about 4 p.m. or so, according to Dumas. Showers will continue Tuesday, and possibly stick around into Thursday.

All told, 1.5 to 3 inches of rain are expected to fall in the foothills and mountains. Coastal areas will see 0.75 to 1.5 inches.

The snow level will be about 5,000 feet on Monday, with areas at or above that elevation seeing several inches of fresh powder, according to the National Weather Service. Accumulations of more than a foot are possible above 6,000 feet, forecasts show.

The snow level will drop to about 3,500 feet Monday night — low enough to affect the Grapevine section of the 5 Freeway north of Castaic. However, Dumas said only light accumulation is expected.

"We had kind of good luck with the timing on this," he said.

This storm and the one last week have combined to give Southern California a much-needed soaking. But the region is still short of the normal level of rainfall.

By this time of year, downtown Los Angeles would typically have received about 12.5 inches of rain, Dumas said. So far, only about 9.75 inches has fallen.

"We have some making up to do," he said.

Another opportunity to catch up could come later this week in the form of yet another storm.

The steady stream of precipitation this month has reawakened hopes of a "March miracle" that could help the region recover after a historically dry January and February. Dumas said another term is perhaps more appropriate, though.

"This could be 'March Madness' since the other one is canceled," he said, referring to the NCAA basketball championship tournament that was scrapped because of the coronavirus pandemic. "Go bet on rain."

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