California braces for flooding again as another wet winter storm hits

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The latest in a series of wet winter storms gained strength in California early Monday, with forecasters warning of possible flooding, hail, strong winds and even brief tornadoes as the system moves south over the next few days.

Gusts topped 30 mph (48 kph) in Oakland and San Jose as a mild cold front late Saturday gave way to a more powerful storm on Sunday, said meteorologist Brayden Murdock with the National Weather Service office in San Francisco.

“The winds are here and getting stronger, and the rains will follow quickly,” he said Sunday afternoon.

California’s central coast is at risk of “significant flooding,” with up to 5 inches (12 cm) of rain predicted for many areas, according to the weather service. Isolated rain totals of 10 inches (25 cm) are possible in the Santa Lucia and Santa Ynez mountain ranges as the storm heads toward greater Los Angeles.

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Back-to-back Storms Will Hit San Diego County With Heavy Rain, Moderate Snow and High Winds

The bad weather will begin with a weak system on Monday that will give way to a much larger storm Tuesday that’s drawing extra moisture from the subtropics, which will increase projected rainfall.

The spring equinox arrives Monday. But it will feel like mid-winter across San Diego County. A weak storm will deliver light rain ahead of a bigger system that will push ashore Tuesday with heavy precipitation, moderate snow, biting cold, and fierce winds from the desert to the sea, the National Weather Service said.

Forecasters said the storms could raise the water level in the San Diego River in Mission Valley to near-flood stage and produce winds strong enough to snap trees from Oceanside to San Ysidro, where gusts will be in the 54 to 60 mph range.

The coast and inland valleys are projected to receive up to 3 inches of rain from early Tuesday to early Thursday and 4 to 5 inches at Palomar Mountain, which has recorded 49.77 inches of precipitation since the rainy season began on October 1. That’s 19.36 inches above average.

The heavy rain is worrisome to public works crews. The landscape is saturated from a seemingly endless string of Pacific storms, many of them beefed up by moisture from the subtropics. The rain contributed to a cliff collapse at Black’s Beach in January and created a massive sinkhole on state Route 78 in Oceanside last week.

The larger storm now approaching San Diego has tapped into moisture from northwest of Hawaii, generating an atmospheric river that is forecast to move directly over San Diego County.

The incoming winds also have people on edge. The weather service said in an advisory that the system could “translate to a very strong wind event that we only see once every few years. The strongest winds will be ahead of and with the cold frontal passage on Tuesday.”

The air will become very unstable late Tuesday and early Wednesday and could result in sporadic thunder and lightning across much of the region.

On Wednesday, the conversation will shift to the cold air. The daytime high in San Diego is only expected to reach 59, which is eight degrees below average. Communities across the region will be 5 to 15 degrees cooler than normal.

Click here to read the full article in the SD Union Tribune