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New storm to bring heavy rain, strong winds, snow to California this week

AccuWeather 3/26/2023 Bill Deger

The 'storm train' will keep on rolling into California this week, as another area of low pressure will pummel the state with more flooding downpours, damaging winds and heavy snow this week, according to AccuWeather forecasters.

The storm is the latest in a series of harsh winter storms that have impacted the Golden State over the last several weeks and months. The most recent one turned deadly last week, was classified as a 'bomb cyclone' and even spawned tornadoes near Los Angeles.

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Impacts from this new storm, which will be a hybrid of two storms joining forces over northeastern Pacific Ocean by Sunday night, will begin in the northwestern part of the state late on Monday, and then advance south through the central and southern areas into Tuesday and Wednesday. The storm will arrive amid chilly conditions in the western and southwestern U.S., and will even spread snow well inland across portions of the intermountain West.

Perhaps the biggest threat posed by the next storm will be from freshwater flooding. Numerous locations are still reeling from the last storm, which caused flash flooding and triggered mudslides, especially in the central coastal portion of the state. It hasn't all been bad news, as severe drought has nearly vanished from most of the state, and most major reservoirs have been filled, with the differences compared to last year even visible from space.

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A large portion of the central coastal area, the San Francisco-Bay Area, the Sacramento valley and north-central part of the state will measure 1 to 2 inches in their rain gauges by the time the storm winds down later this week. A smaller area in the northwestern part of the state north of the Bay Area, and in the foothills around the Sierra will see higher totals, in the 2- to 4-inch range, leading to the prospects of more significant flooding there. The AccuWeather Local StormMax™ is 8 inches in this area.

The heaviest rain appears that it will fall on Tuesday, but lighter rainfall will still advance into Southern California on Tuesday night and Wednesday, and linger as late as Thursday, before the storm finally exits into the Four Corners region. While Los Angeles and San Diego's rainfall should tally less than an inch, the rain will still cause travel issues for the middle of the week.

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Any rainfall will add to what has already been a top-10 wet season for most of the state, and one that has seen some areas tally precipitation totaling two to five times seasonal historical averages.

The next system will add to what has already been a blockbuster season for snow in California's mountains, especially the Sierra Nevada range.


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"This storm comes on the heels of a record-setting winter in the mountains," said AccuWeather Meteorologist Andrew Johnson-Levine. "At Mammoth Mountain, only 2 more inches of snow are needed to break the all-time single season record of 668 inches there."

Sure enough, that record at Mammoth is expected to be within reach with this storm, and then some. Snow totaling 1 to 4 feet can fall above 5,000 feet in the Sierra, as well as the Siskiyou range which stretches into far southern Oregon. A few inches could even accumulate in much lower elevations, as snow levels fall as low as 500 feet as the storm drags in colder air.

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"Pass closures are very likely, even on well-traveled highways such as Interstates 5 and 80, where travel will become difficult or even impossible by Tuesday night," added Johnson-Levine.

The portion of Interstate 5 that goes through the Grapevine in Southern California may also be impacted as precipitation arrives and snow levels drop. Lesser amounts of snow are forecast in the Transverse ranges, but still can lead to travel delays.

Last week's storm unleashed powerful winds of over 70 mph in parts of the state, even shattering windows on skyscrapers in San Francisco. This storm will be no different, with the next round of strong winds likely aimed at the Bay Area again, as well as northwestern parts of the state, and in the Sierra, in the late Monday through Tuesday night time frame.

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Wind gusts as high as 100 mph are possible in the mountains, which when combined with heavy snow will lead to dangerous blizzard conditions. In the lower elevations, including the Bay Area, gusts could approach 50 or 60 mph.

"With an already saturated ground due to recent heavy rain, downed trees and power outages are a real concern," said Johnson-Levine.

The strength of the winds will tend to diminish as the storm moves south later in the week, since the system is expected to weaken and enlarge, but any breeze combined with rain and chilly temperatures will make for a raw feeling in the LA Basin.

Rain and snow might not be the only type of precipitation the storm produces, as some small hail is also possible, as the core of the cold in the upper atmosphere from the storm pushes ashore in Southern California from late Wednesday into Thursday.

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