More rain, wind and mountain snow pelted California on Wednesday as a cold storm continued to swirl over the soaked state, increasing the risk of flooding, road closures and debris flows.
The massive low-pressure system churning over the Pacific has already generated dozens of wind advisories and winter storm warnings across the state, with forecasters warning of blustery conditions and even more snow atop what is already a record snowpack.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday expanded his storm state of emergency declaration to 43 counties and requested a presidential disaster declaration for the counties of Calaveras, Kern, Los Angeles, Mariposa, Monterey, San Benito, Santa Cruz, Tulare and Tuolumne. If approved, the declaration could boost emergency response and recovery efforts in communities affected by storm-related flooding, debris flows, snow and avalanches.
“Over these past months, state, local and federal partners have worked around the clock to protect our communities from devastating storms that have ravaged every part of our state,” Newsom said. “We will continue to deploy every tool we have to help Californians rebuild and recover from these storms.”
The latest system caused some power outages and downed trees in Northern California on Tuesday but is generally expected to be weaker than the “bomb cyclone” and atmospheric rivers that came before it.
However, there is a risk of even more Sierra snowpack and excessive rainfall along the coast, which could lead to localized flooding “given the very wet antecedent conditions,” the National Weather Service said.
Satellite imagery showed the center of the storm off the coast of Northern California early Wednesday. The system is expected to move slowly southward throughout the day before tracking inland across Southern California as it weakens early Thursday.
Rain was already falling in the Los Angeles area Wednesday morning and was expected to continue on and off throughout the day, said Mike Wofford, a meteorologist with the weather service in Oxnard. A brief pause in the afternoon will give way to a stronger surge of moisture from the same storm system Wednesday night into Thursday.
“This is kind of a typical cyclone system,” Wofford said. “It’ll be heavier at times, but then it will stop and start again, and there may be some thunder in there. It will be a little bit more active tonight and into tomorrow.”
Coastal areas and valleys from San Luis Obispo to Los Angeles could get up to an inch of rain, while foothills and mountain areas could see up to 3 inches. Rain rates of up to a quarter-inch per hour are expected, with isolated instances of a half-inch per hour.
The storm will also deliver snow, up to 8 inches at elevations above 5,000 feet. The Santa Barbara and Ventura County mountains could get up to 14 inches, with 18 inches possible in the L.A. County mountains.
A winter storm warning is in effect until 2 pm Thursday in the eastern San Gabriel Mountains, including Mt. Wilson, Mt. Baldy, Wrightwood and the Angeles Crest Highway. Heavy snow is expected with winds gusting as high as 45 mph.
A winter weather advisory is also in effect until 2 p.m. Thursday in the western San Gabriel Mountains and Highway 14 corridor, including Acton, Warm Springs and Mill Creek, where up to 12 inches of snow are possible on higher peaks.
The conditions could spell trouble for areas that already experienced deadly blizzard conditions this year, including the San Bernardino County mountain communities where at least a dozen people died after behind trapped behind piles of snow.
The weather service has issued a winter storm warning in the San Bernardino Mountains until 2 pm Thursday, advising of “difficult to impossible” travel conditions, 65 mph wind gusts and up to 10 inches of snow above 5,000 feet. Up to 18 inches are possible on higher peaks.
“If you must travel, take an extra flashlight, food, water, in case of an emergency, and before you leave, check the latest road conditions,” said James Brotherton, a meteorologist with the weather service in San Diego, which covers the San Bernardino Mountains.
Brotherton said the Cajon Pass will also see snow Wednesday evening through Thursday morning.
“People driving from L.A. to Las Vegas and not realizing they’re going over a mountain range and there happens to be snow — that’s probably the biggest impact,” he said. “People that aren’t prepared for those conditions.”
Forecasters are also keeping a close eye on the Central Valley, where a winter storm warning is in effect for the Sierra Nevada and nearby areas spanning from Bakersfield to Yosemite until Wednesday night, with heavy snow and wind gusts of up to 60 mph possible.
A flood watch is in effect for the Sierra foothills until Thursday morning, as “excessive runoff may result in flooding of rivers, creeks, streams and other low-lying and flood-prone locations,” the weather service said.
Thousands of residents in the Tulare County remain under evacuation warnings, including the areas of Porterville and Allensworth, which have endured devastating flooding as this year’s storms swelled rivers, melted snow and revived the once-dry Tulare Lake.
Showers, thunderstorms and the threat of heavy precipitation and more flooding are forecast in the area Wednesday and into Thursday, forecasters said, noting that “soils have had little to no time to dry out from the previous events, creating ideal runoff conditions.”
Storm clouds in the Central Valley — and in most of the state — are expected to clear by Thursday afternoon.
The weekend will bring drier weather to the storm-soaked state, but wet conditions are again on the horizon at the start of next week.
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