With California’s ‘Biggest Storm of the Season’ Hitting This Weekend, Stay Home and Hunker Down - GV Wire - Explore. Explain. Expose
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With California’s ‘Biggest Storm of the Season’ Hitting This Weekend, Stay Home and Hunker Down

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A car is nearly completely submerged under flood waters in Long Beach, Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024. (Brittany Murray/The Orange County Register via AP)
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The first atmospheric river storm that hit this week foreshadowed a bigger storm that’s taking aim on California, with the potential for 24 to 36 hours of nonstop rain in coastal areas and blizzards piling up snow in the Sierra.

The second and larger storm — termed an “atmospheric river” because it’s a band of moisture fueled by the tropical Pacific — is forecast to dump 1.5 to 2 inches of rain in the Fresno area, 2 to 3 inches of rain in the Merced and west Valley areas, 4 to 6 inches of rain in the Sierra foothills, and as much as 5 to 6 feet of new snow to higher elevations in the Sierra, according to the National Weather Service in Hanford.

The storm is forecast to arrive Saturday night and depart Monday.

National Weather Service meteorologist Bill South said the Sierra foothills and lower elevation Sierra, with higher rainfall totals, could be subject to flash flooding, mudslides, and rockslides, “especially Sunday afternoon or Sunday night.”

If ever there was a weekend to stay home and hunker down, it’s this one, South said.

“That’s always the safest bet,” he said.

The storm is expected to hammer the entire state and includes excessive rainfall along the Central Coast and stretching south to Santa Barbara County starting Saturday night.

Snow, Wind Gusts Impact Travel in South Valley, Sierra

Snow could affect travel on the Grapevine on Interstate 5 and also the Tehachapi area on Highway 58. NWS Hanford is predicting extreme winter weather in the central Sierra above 5,000 feet and warning against all but emergency travel.

Snow and rain aren’t the only potential hazards — travelers will need to prepare for strong wind gusts that could top 65 mph along the I-5 corridor through the Grapevine and 45 mph along the Coastal Range and in the San Joaquin Valley throughout Sunday, NWS says.

San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego have been particularly hard hit by heavy rains that caused localized flooding. With the ground already saturated, additional rainfall will flood lower-lying areas.

The California Office of Emergency Services has activated numerous resources across the state in advance of this weekend’s major storm, including swift-water rescue teams in Fresno and Tulare counties and other personnel and equipment in those counties.

Rainfall totals for the Valley are still slightly below the annual average for the precipitation year starting Oct. 1, South said. But Sunday’s storm should wipe out that deficit.

Precipitation in California is expected to continue at least through Feb. 11, he said.

Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email