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Hurricane Norbert Churns in Pacific, Potentially Bringing Flooding Rains to Parched Desert Southwest

4 Sep 2014, 1:27 pm

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Hurricane Norbert, an eastern Pacific tropical system packing winds of 90-mph, is slowly trudging northwest at 7-mph. Tropical storm warnings are in effect of the southern part of Mexico’s Baja California — from La Paz to Cabo San Larazo. Additionally, tropical storm watches are in effect from Cabo San Larazo to Puerto Can Andresito and La Paz to San Evaristo.

At this point, Norbert is expected to stay well offshore, but it could bring some gusty winds — up to tropical storm force, hence the watches and warnings — and torrential downpours to the southern Baja coast.

Over the next few days, Norbert will move into much cooler waters and interact with some drier air. This combination of elements is expected to degrade Norbert even further. Current thinking is Norbert will remain a hurricane through Saturday evening. But by early Sunday morning, the storm should slow to a tropical storm, before entering the extra-tropical phase by early Monday.

Flash Flooding

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Even though Norbert isn’t a huge issue from a tropical perspective, it could pose a flash flooding threat to parts of the Desert Southwest moving into the weekend and the beginning of next week.

Adding insult to injury, additional moisture from the Gulf of moisture will surge in Friday, starting off a few days of potentially heavy rainfall in places like New Mexico, Arizona and California.

Some forecast models are suggesting that upward of 6+ inches of rain are possible under some of the heavier convection in Arizona and New Mexico, through Monday. This is already prompting National Weather Service offices in the area to warn of the potential for flash flooding. The heavy rain could also have another effect on the regions residents: flash flooding enhancement due to burns scars from recent wildfires.

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Recent fires initiate complex chemical reactions in the soil that make them “hydrophobic.” In other words, they can somewhat repel water. The soil’s inability to absorb more water means more runoff and a greater chance for flash flooding.

Aside from the threat for flash flooding, the monsoonal moisture from Norbert could bring at least some rain to bone-dry Southern California. While it won’t be enough to knock that big of a dent in their historic drought, Californians are likely to enjoy a brief reprieve from the dry weather.

High Surf on California’s Coast

Another consequence of Norbert tracking north: the threat for very high surf along the Southern California coast. Waves aren’t likely to be as high as they were with Hurricane Marie, but beach goers should be mindful of waves that will be as high as 4 to 8 feet. Rip currents will be a concern as well, so use caution while in the water.

Meteorologist Alan Raymond

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