The next in a series of storms is forming off the coast of California, ready to move onshore over the weekend. This storm is larger than many we’ve seen this winter, and has significant pressure gradients in place to produce potentially damaging wind gusts to many areas of California on Saturday.
However, as is always the case, forecasting exactly which areas of the Coachella Valley will experience winds with this next system is going to be difficult. We definitely will experience rain however, so that portion of the forecast is less in doubt.
At this time, after examining the various weather models, it appears the best chance for damaging winds will be in the mountains, and the north slopes of the San Bernardino Mountains. South winds could exceed 80 mph in some of those areas. Highway 18 from Big Bear to Lucerne Valley could be particularly vulnerable to damaging winds. Pioneertown and North Landers may also see extreme gusts. These winds are likely to be strongest from about 9 am - 4 pm Saturday.
Slightly weaker, but still strong winds up to 40-50 mph or more are likely in the remainder of the high desert areas, including Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree, 29 Palms, Victorville, Apple Valley, and the Barstow area.
Winds for the Coachella Valley are a bit more difficult to predict. Winds for most of Saturday are expected to blow from the south and southeast. This is usually an unfavorable direction for high winds in the Coachella Valley, as the topography of the nearby mountains typically blocks most of the wind from surfacing. However, due to the incredible dynamics associated with this incoming storm system, it is certainly possible high winds will occur at times Saturday afternoon, especially along the southern foothills, including South Palm Desert, South Rancho Mirage near highway 111, Cathedral City Cove, as well as the Araby and Indian Canyons area of South Palm Springs.
As the powerful cold front approaches late Saturday afternoon, winds are expected to shift to the southwest and west. During this time period, which is currently expected between about 2 pm and 7 pm Saturday, would be the most likely period of severe winds in the Coachella Valley, if they occur. Winds may also begin to crank through the I-10 corridor as well, where we may have northwest winds blowing along I-10, into the northern areas of town…. and we concurrently have southwest winds blowing along the southern areas along the 111 corridor from Palm Springs to Palm Desert. It’s a tough wind forecast, but the takeaway is that winds in some areas will be strong, whereas other area may be protected. My best advice is to prepare your yards for the worst, but don’t be surprised if the wind doesn’t blow much in any one spot.
As a sidenote, high winds are expected in the coastal and valley areas of the rest of Southern California. Anyone traveling into San Diego, Orange County, the Riverside area, Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara and up into the rest of Central California should be prepared for the possibility of high winds, downed trees and power outages Saturday afternoon in those areas most exposed to high winds from the south. I-5 over the Grapevine and US 101 will be particularly at risk.
RAIN AND SNOW SATURDAY AND SUNDAY
Heavy amounts of rain will fall in many areas of California, with heavy snow in the mountains. Flash floods and mudslides are likely in many areas, especially the burn areas from the last several years. Malibu, the mountains of Orange County, and the Santa Barbara area need to be prepared for possible damage.
The Coachella Valley will have varying amounts of rain, mostly between 0.40 - 1.25 inch for Saturday and Saturday night. This will likely be enough to get the washes running for a day or two, so it is possible that Indian Canyon and Gene Autry Trail may be closed for awhile at the wash. Some water could fill the Araby wash as well by late Saturday or Sunday, and the Tahquitz Creek will likely see renewed flow increases.
The nearby mountains will see varying amounts of snow. For elevations above 8,000 feet, 1-3 feet of snow is possible this weekend. Lesser amounts will fall between 7,000 - 8,000 feet, with several inches possible from 5,000 - 7,000 feet. Weaker systems are expected to come ashore Sunday, Monday, and again Tuesday evening… which is likely to drop several more inches of snow on top of that which falls Saturday and Saturday night with the main storm. However, the unsettled weather Monday - Wednesday is likely to hover over or west of the mountains, but the deserts will likely remain partly cloudy and cool, with only a slight chance of scattered showers predicted for Monday - Wednesday.
The extended forecast currently shows dry and slightly warmer weather returning for Wednesday - Friday, with highs likely staying in the 60’s. Some breezy north winds are possible at times.
The long term models are hinting at the dry weather continuing next weekend, before possibly turning unsettled yet again sometime after February 6-8th, for yet another period of wet weather for the state by the middle of the month a distinct possibility.
Here’s a list of the current watches/advisories and warnings for the upcoming weekend:
Wind Advisory for the Coachella Valley, Yucca Valley and 29 Palms areas for Saturday: winds may gust to 45-50 mph as the cold front passes through, especially between 2-6 pm. Some areas may not experience high winds that are sheltered by nearby mountains, however.
High Wind Warning for the mountains, and the high deserts for Saturday: winds may gust to 80 mph in the higher mountains and also on the north slopes of the San Bernardino Mountains, including Apple Valley, Lucerne Valley and the Victor Valley.
Winter Storm Warning for the mountains: Up to 2 feet of snow above 8,000 feet, and 4-12 inches between 6,000 - 8,000 feet between late Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon. Snow level will drop from 7,500 Saturday to 4,500 feet by Sunday. Additional snow may fall Monday through Wednesday morning.
Flash Flood Watch for the lower elevations of the mountains, and the coastal areas of Southern California from Orange County to Santa Barbara, including LA, OC and the Inland Empire. Intense rainfall rates may cause flash flooding on Saturday and Saturday night. Up to 7 inches of rain could fall on the coastal slopes of the San Bernardino Mountains on Saturday and Sunday.
Drought easing will continue. Most of California is at or close to normal or even above normal rainfall and snowfall for this date. The additional storms the next 3-4 days will likely create totals in many areas that will be 125% - 150% of normal, or more. Good news for water concerns!
Enjoy the next round of wet weather! Winter doesn’t often last for long here in the desert, so now is your chance to enjoy the dampness while it lasts!