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Strongest Storm in Years Set to Impact West Coast; Blizzard Warnings, High Wind Warnings and Flood Watches Issued

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A strong river of atmospheric moisture — known as the Pineapple Express — is about to come crashing into the West Coast. For some locations, this massive plume of moisture could bring upward of eight inches of rain, two to three feet of snow and winds in excess of 65-mph.

And that’s on top of some pretty impressive totals from last week’s storm. Parts of the state received up to 8 inches of rain, but most areas saw between 2 to 3 inches — especially along the coastal areas and in the Central Valley.

And with the arrival of the next — more powerful — system, flooding, mudslides, impassable roads and power outages are a serious concern.

As of Wednesday afternoon, nearly 450 customers were without power in Humboldt County, Calif. and more than an inch of rain had fallen at the National Weather Service office in Eureka, Calif. Officials are warning this is just the very start of the storm and people should prepare now.

The combination of saturated soil, heavy rain and high winds is likely to send trees toppling onto power lines and could cause mass power outages.

Here’s what Californians can expect:

An upper-level low and a trailing cold front will being to push into the Pacific Northwest early Thursday; at that point, moderate to heavy rain showers will being to come onshore in northern California. And moderate to heavy rain will being pushing into the Bay Area, putting a damper on the morning commute. Forecast models are calling for 2 to 3 inches the San Francisco Metro Area, while points northward could see as much as five inches of rain. The National Weather Service in the Bay Area also suggests some of the coastal ranges could see as much as eight inches of rain.

Given the large volume of rain that’s likely to fall, much of northern California is under a flood watch. This includes major areas like Sacramento, San Francisco and a large swath of the Central Valley.

RAIN

If you come across a road that’s washed out or covered with water of an unknown depth, it’s best to find an alternate route. A foot of fast-moving water can float a small vehicle downstream.

The rain will quickly transition down to the south, bringing additional rain to the L.A. Basin and much of the Inland Empire. Forecast models are calling for 1 to 3 inches of rain from San Luis Obispo to south of Orange County. And the foothills and mountains in Southern California could see as much as four inches of rain. And given the rain that’s already fallen, in recent days, the soil is likely to be very moist. The additional rain could cause mudslides and flash flooding in Southern California, through early Friday.

Again, be wary of standing water on roadways.

A bit further east, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, snow will be a major concern — especially those that will be taking I-80 and crossing Donner’s Pass.

SNOW

Blizzard warnings and winter storm warnings are in effect for much of the mountain range — from just east of Redding to Sequoia National Park and over to Lake Tahoe. According to the National Weather Service in Sacramento, accumulations above 6,000 feet could be between 7 and 14 inches, with 2 to 3 feet along the crest. Winds of 25 to 50-mph will cause whiteout conditions and make driving nearly impossible, especially over the passes.

If you’re driving in the region, use extreme caution Thursday and Friday.

This is a developing situation and WeatherNation meteorologists will be keeping a close eye on the storm, bringing you updates — on-air and online — as they become available.

Meteorologist Alan Raymond

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