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LOS ANGELES Another soggy chapter is about to be written in what has been yet another wet start to a year in Southern California as an atmospheric river storm aims at the region, threatening potential flooding rainfall.

An area of low pressure is developing as it races in off the Pacific Ocean on Thursday, spinning up into a rather potent storm by the time it nestles in off the Northern California coast on Friday.

Steady rain will swing through the San Francisco Bay Area and Central California valleys during the day Friday, bringing periods of rain and gusty winds that could reach up to 45 mph along the coast and hills.

As the storm pushes south toward the Los Angeles Basin Friday night, it will tap into some tropical moisture, transitioning into an atmospheric river storm that will lead to an increase in rainfall and flash flooding potential through the weekend.

“The bulk of moisture on the southern side (of the storm) is getting sucked right in, thrown into Southern California,” FOX Weather Meteorologist Bob Van Dillen said. “Spots that don’t need rain are going to get it again.”

CALIFORNIA’S ‘ARKSTORM’: HISTORIC 1000-YEAR FLOODS OF 1861-62 FEATURED 8 WEEKS OF ATMOSPHERIC RIVERS

As much as 1.5-2.5 inches of rain is likely up and down coastal Southern California, including the Los Angeles Basin and San Diego area. Higher totals of 3-5 inches are likely in the foothills and mountains.

“You’re talking a lot of rain here, and you’re working up against these mountain faces that allow a ton of rain to wring out over Southern California,” FOX Weather Meteorologist Britta Merwin said.

Rainfall rates are forecast to reach 0.25-0.50 inches per hour across the region, with up to 0.75 inches per hour possible in locally heavier downpours. Thunderstorms are possible Saturday night, with even a low chance of severe weather, including torrential downpours, quarter-sized hail, strong wind gusts and even the possibility of a weak tornado.

“This is the classic setup where we can see isolated severe weather for Southern California,” Merwin said. “That cold air present (aloft) is going to bring in a risk of thunderstorms … We shouldn’t be shocked if we see some hail.”

WHAT IS AN ATMOSPHERIC RIVER?

NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center has placed the Santa Barbara, California, area in a Level 2 out of 4 risk for flash flooding on Friday as the storm approaches, with that level of risk spreading across much of the Los Angeles and San Diego areas on Saturday. 

“Roadway flooding will be a particular hazard on Saturday,” the National Weather Service in Los Angeles warned. “So if you are planning to travel into or out of southern and central California, plan for more time to reach your destination over the weekend.” 

Rockslides and mudslides, which have been a recurring problem throughout the soggy winter, remain possible as the ground remains saturated. Downtown Los Angeles has had nearly double its average rainfall since the start of the year, and February was among the top 10 wettest on record. 

Winds will gust to 20-40 mph, with some isolated gusts to 45-60 mph over the Santa Lucia Mountains, where a High Wind Watch remains in effect Friday.

Higher elevations to get another heavy coating of snow

“Nothing says spring like snow and blowing snow in the mountains,” the NWS in Los Angeles said Wednesday.

Heavy snow will fall in the higher elevations of the Southern California mountains this weekend, with 2-6 inches likely above 4,500 feet and 12-24 inches likely above 6,500 feet. There is even a low chance of snow along Interstate 5’s Tejon Pass in the Grapevine.

Snow will also pile up in the Sierra Nevada, where a few feet of snow will add to the snowpack that now sits at 101% of average statewide.

“This has been one of the most remarkable snowpack recoveries we have seen in modern history in California,” the FOX Forecast Center said. “The statewide snowpack was a mere 28% of normal on Jan. 1 and 53% of normal on Feb. 1, before the storm train kicked into gear.”

Southern California is expected to dry out early next week as the storm track instead returns to the Pacific Northwest, but long-range forecasts show another storm eyeing California toward next weekend. 

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