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Late-Season Winter Storm Strikes Calif., Eyes West

UPDATED 5 AM PST, March 1, 2014

UPDATED By WeatherBug Sr. Meteorologist, John Bateman

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A complex late-season winter storm will usher in meteorological spring with more much-needed rainfall and heavy mountain snow from the Golden State into the Desert Southwest and Wasatch Range for the start of the first weekend of March.

The second low pressure system to impact the Golden State this week has not only cut precipitation deficits in half, but it has also squeezed out widespread 1-to-3 inch totals culminating in a heightened flash flood threat along the Interstate-5 corridor from Los Angeles to San Diego. As round one of Pacific moisture pulls inland across Nevada, Utah, and Arizona, a second wave of rain and thunderstorms will be whisked into the same California locations as well.

The final bounty of Pacific moisture will pelt southern California and central Arizona residents with 1-to-3 inches of rain, although the western slopes from the Santa Monica to San Bernardino mountains will be particularly hard hit with as much as 4 or 5 inches falling by the time it finally concludes Sunday morning. In fact, rain rates will be enhanced by thunderstorms, with up to or exceeding one-inch per hour leading to serious flash flooding problems.

Even places such as Phoenix and Yuma, Ariz., will see 1-to-2 inches of rain from this late-season winter storm. While it won`t likely create any flooding issues, it will erase an almost 2-inch deficit for Phoenix which hasn`t measured a drop of rain since January 1. Even Los Angeles, with 1.41 inches of rain falling Friday, will nearly have cut its precipitation deficit in half by the start of the weekend, while San Diego will continue to eat away at its own 3-inch drought.

The widespread heavy and prolonged nature of the storm will leave rivers, streams and creeks swollen across southern California and parts of central Arizona through this weekend. Flood Watches and Flash Flood Watches remain in place from Los Angeles to San Diego. The flood threat will be even more notable in recent burn areas, as both flooding and debris flows will be a big concern. Additionally, mudslides will be possible where heavy rain falls on soil left bare by previous forest fires.

On the other hand, the late-season winter storm will carve out a picturesque blanket of fresh snow for the Sierra Nevada, San Bernardino and Los Angeles County Mountains. Snow tallies will range from as little as 6 inches around 6,000 feet, to a whopping 3-to-4 feet possible above 8,000 feet. Similar totals will also be the rule rather than the exception from Arizona`s to Colorado`s and New Mexico`s San Juan Mountains by the end of the weekend.

Winter Storm Warnings and Winter Weather Advisories remain in place for parts of the San Bernardino and Los Angeles County Mountains, as well as from the southeastern Arizona Mountains to the Colorado Rockies and Wasatch Range. Here, driving will become quite difficult during this weekend. Make sure to check chain requirements, and pack a winter survival kit in case you become stranded in the elements while travelling across the higher passes.

Thankfully, the weather will take a turn for the tranquil side by early next week, as high pressure moving onto the Southwestern U.S. supplies the region with dry weather and comfortably warm temperatures.

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