Jan 4, 2017

California's New Year Is Awash in Moisture--and There's Much More to Come

Anderson Peak, California
USA
by
Bob Henson
,
Category 6
Parts of the Sierra Nevada may rack up more than 20” in precipitation (including rain and the moisture within snow) over the seven-day period from 00Z January 4 to 11 (4:00 pm PST Jan. 3 to 10), based on this projection from the 0Z Wednesday run of the GFS model. Image: Tropical Tidbits
Parts of the Sierra Nevada may rack up more than 20” in precipitation (including rain and the moisture within snow) over the seven-day period from 00Z January 4 to 11 (4:00 pm PST Jan. 3 to 10), based on this projection from the 0Z Wednesday run of the GFS model. Image: Tropical Tidbits

After five years dominated by a grinding, near-statewide drought, it’s a bit disorienting to find ourselves looking at a dramatically wet pattern enveloping much of California as 2017 gets under way. One major slug of heavy rain and mountain snow moved through the heart of the state from Tuesday into Wednesday. As of 4 am PST (12Z) Wednesday morning PST, central California had racked up some impressive 24-hour rainfall amounts, including widespread 3” - 5” amounts and a few 5” - 7” totals. In Monterey County, Anderson Peak was inundated with 7.25”. Large swaths of the mountainous West were under winter storm warnings on Wednesday, from northern California and southern Oregon to central Colorado, with 2 to 4 additional feet of snow possible above 7000-8000 feet in the Sierra (where an avalanche warning was in effect). Winter weather advisories for lighter snow have been hoisted along the storm’s projected track through Kansas City and St. Louis.

An even more intense round of heavy precipitation is on track to strike California this weekend, setting the stage for a potential major flood threat in some areas. Already, on Wednesday morning, a flash flood warning was posted for the California coast near Big Sur in the steep mountains where the Soberanes Fire burned last summer, and the Big Sur River was already at moderate stage.