Powerful storm begins to move into California

A powerful storm is beginning to move into California as the saturated state faces a new round of wet weather that could trigger flooding and debris flows.

After several sunny days in Northern California, the rain and snow have returned to the region Thursday and will hang around into the weekend.

Partly cloudy skies were forecast in Orange County, along with highs of 62 in Newport Beach and Laguna Beach; 63 in San Clemente; 68 in Anaheim; 69 in Fullerton; 70 in Irvine; and 71 in Yorba Linda.Friday's temperatures will be between 2 and 12 degrees lower, then will fall slightly on Saturday amid showers.

The storm is moving south to north and is expected to deliver rainfall totals ranging from 1 to 2 inches in the Bay Area hills and a quarter-inch to 1 inch in urban locations.

Fortunately, the heaviest precipitation from this particular storm is not hitting Lake Oroville in north-central California, where almost 200,000 people were ordered to evacuate earlier on Sunday due to fears that a part of Oroville Dam's infrastructure - the nation's tallest - could fail.

"The storm looks to be the strongest storm to hit southwest California this season", the National Weather Service office for the Los Angeles region wrote. Up to an inch of rain per hour is expected in some areas in part because the storm has been tapping into a so-called atmospheric river over the Pacific, sucking up volumes of warm subtropical moisture, forecasters said.

Seal Beach officials are concerned "damaging surf along with gale force winds have potential to cause minor flooding on Saturday", according to the police. A high surf advisory will be in effect from 7 Thursday evening until 7 a.m. Sunday, said the NWS, warning of surf of 6 to 9 feet Thursday, increasing to 8 to 13 feet on Saturday before diminishing that night.

In higher areas of eastern California and western Nevada, as much as 2 feet (60 cm) of snow could cause whiteouts, forecasters said. During that period, there could be combined seas of 14 to 17 feet and inexperienced mariners should stay off the water, the NWS said.

A high wind warning signifying winds or gusts of at least 58 miles per hour will be in effect from 7 a.m. Friday until 7 p.m. Friday in the Santa Monica Mountain Recreational area and the Santa Clarita Valley, with both areas expected to experience southeast-to-south winds of 30-40 miles per hour and 60-mph gusts.

The National Weather Service has issued a dizzying array of watches and warnings to cover all the storm impacts, which can be found on weather.gov.

Jon Erdman, a meteorologist with the Weather Channel, told the weather news network that the storm will not only bring heavy rainfall, but also damaging wind gusts and snowfall in areas of higher elevation.

  • Jon Douglas