Relentless storm train to hammer western US travel

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As storms continue to roll in from the Pacific, each brings low-altitude rain, snow and high winds, further straining holiday travel and potentially causing other weather-related problems early in 2023. There is, AccuWeather meteorologists warn.

Following the storm that affected Pacific states on Tuesday, at least three additional storms are lining up over the Pacific and heading into the region by New Year’s Day.

The storm that affected much of the western United States on Tuesday, December 27, 2022 included an atmospheric river extending north of Hawaii to parts of central California. (AccuWeather Enhanced RealVue™ Satellite)

The cumulative effect of four storms in seven days could bring 3 to 4 inches of rain in San Francisco and 2 to 3 inches in Sacramento, California. Around Los Angeles, possibly south to San Diego, north to Seattle, and inland to Phoenix, there could be an inch or two of rain until New Year’s Day. AccuWeather Local StormMax™ with 10 inches of precipitation is possible from storm through Sunday.


Throughout New Year’s Day, rain as well as snow in the western hinterland could go a long way in alleviating widespread and long-term drought conditions. Not only will water be squeezed out along the coast and across the mountains, but there will also be large amounts of snow in the Colorado River basin. Lake Mead, located at the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River, hit a historically low level of 1,041 feet this summer. The water level at the dam this week is hovering around 1,044 feet. There is hope that enough snow this winter may help raise water levels in Lake Mead and other waterways during the spring thaw.

According to the US Drought Monitor, conditions from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific coast range from unusually dry to unusually drought. Some of the worst prolonged drought conditions across the West occurred over California’s San Joaquin Valley.

Long-term benefits from drought from storm trains can be substantial for western states, but in the short term, problems from floods, debris flows and avalanches pose risks to life and property at the local level. may bring about.

“Most of the storm problems, especially those that started during the week and those coming in on holiday weekends, are related to wet weather and reduced highway travel speeds,” says AccuWeather senior meteorologist Heather Zehr. says Mr.

People taking the road from western Washington to western Oregon to much of California and Arizona will have to spend extra time commuting due to rain and poor visibility over the holiday weekend. there is.

However, in some cases, heavy rains can cause flash flooding on secondary roads in urban and rural areas. Debris flows may occur at the site of recent burn scars.

An episode of rain accompanied by fog and localized gusts could lead to airline delays at major hubs from Seattle to San Francisco to Los Angeles. The storm train would then have much less impact, but the delay in the ripple effects caused by the West Coast could occur until New Year’s Day.

Warmer temperatures in the eastern two-thirds of the United States heading into New Year’s Day would be very helpful for air travel across the United States, but some weather-related issues may still remain. Storms moving across the western United States on Monday and Tuesday will transition to widespread rain in the eastern United States early in the weekend. Fog is also possible east of the Rocky Mountains in mild and humid conditions. This can be as disruptive as a large snowstorm bringing fog into focus on one or more of the major eastern strongholds.

Most storms in late December and early January bring slightly above normal freezing levels, so some of the moderately high snow can melt quickly in conjunction with rain. This could cause flooding and rapid water flow along some of the short rivers that traverse the western slopes of the Cascade, Siskiyou and Sierra Nevada ranges, Zehr said.

Like a storm train in early January, the combination of temperature fluctuations, changing snow levels, and gusts can alter the high-altitude snowpack. There is, Zerh explained.

In mountainous terrain, including the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain passes, drivers should be prepared for high winds, fog, heavy rain and heavy snow.

“Snow levels in the Sierra Nevada were fairly high Tuesday morning, averaging nearly 7,500 feet, but could drop to about 5,000 feet by early Wednesday,” Zehr said. A brief cold snap behind Tuesday’s storm could bring icy conditions to Donner Pass, California late Tuesday night and early Wednesday.

Two weak storms are forecasted for Thursday and Friday, causing enough snowfall to bring rain, or a mixture of rain and snow to bring levels down to passing levels for California’s Interstate 80. It is possible, but there is still a chance of snow.

A bigger storm rolls in this weekend, so snow cover could build up above Donner Pass for a little while on Saturday, but it could plummet Saturday night through New Year’s Day. When the storm pushes inland, several inches of snow can pile up and clog the roads.

“Thursday through Sunday’s storm could bring 2 to 4 feet of snow typically to the high Sierra Nevada mountains, with more localized amounts,” AccuWeather said. senior meteorologist Brett Anderson said.

Anderson added, “Subzero levels are likely to remain too high for Southern California passes to be covered with snow until New Year’s Day.”

Meanwhile, 1,000 miles further north, temperatures will fluctuate, but a storm train will drop a few degrees Fahrenheit over the weekend in the Cascades of Washington and Oregon. This means that during storms on the pass, more snow can fall for longer periods. Drivers should be prepared for significant delays on Snoqualmie Pass (I-90). there is.

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