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Wild weather on the way: Whipping winds, rain, low-level snow, extreme cold

Hope you enjoyed the stint of recent sunshine, because the weather is about to get wet and wild.

Secure your patio furniture, dig out your warm coats and get ready for another shot of rain and snow that will persist through the weekend, with potentially another storm brewing next week.

“Winter is definitely not over,” National Weather Service meteorologist Elizabeth Schenk said. She’s in the office that covers Orange County and the Inland Empire. “We are looking at a pretty highly impactful week, weather-wise.”

Southern California is about to get wind-whipped and soaked with two systems on the horizon this week, though major flooding like that seen during January’s bomb cyclone storms isn’t expected. Much of the nation is expecting wintry weather this week.

The region will see high intensity, southwest winds ramping up late Tuesday and peaking Wednesday that are expected to reach 30 mph at the coast, with gusts up to 40 mph or 50 mph and even stronger in the mountain regions. Riverside County areas could see wind speeds between 75 mph and 85 mph.

“This is going to be a pretty remarkable system for wind,” Schenk said.

“It’s a really strong low-pressure system that’s going to be racing down the West Coast this week,” she explained. “A lot of times, we’ll see those highest wind speeds at the mountains, but this one is so dynamically strong, we’ll see high wind speeds across Southern California.”

Temperatures will be 10 degrees to 20 degrees colder than normal, said Kristan Lund, meteorologist for the weather service’s Los Angeles region office. She said temps mid-week will range between the upper 30s and low 50s.

Snow will reach low levels, even to about 1,000 feet to 1,500 feet above sea level with the first system, Lund said. For reference, the Grapevine pass is at 4,500 feet, where forecasters are expecting a foot or two of snow, Lund said.

Other areas, including the Cajon Pass, San Gorgonio Pass and eastern Inland Empire could also see snowfall, Schenk said, so drivers should use caution.

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The coldest days are expected to be Wednesday and Thursday, where no area in the region will get above 60 degrees. Areas of the Inland Empire will see the upper 40s and low 50s.

Highs in the mountains shouldn’t make it out of the 20s, and higher elevations will stay in the teens, Schenk said. Coastal areas can expect highs in the low- to mid-50s.

“It’s going to feel remarkably cold. The cold is just going to really go through you,” Schenk said. “It’s going to be pretty unpleasant for a couple days here.”

Along with the wild wind mid-week, the ocean will see strong swells that will bring big waves. A 5.5 foot high tide Wednesday could mean flooding for some low-lying areas and people are warned to stay off rock jetties or tide pools.

A gale watch warning is in place from 10 p.m. Tuesday through 6 p.m. Wednesday, and boaters should stay off the seas, Schenk said. “That is going to be hazardous for any mariner, hazardous for anyone.”

Rain and snow should be lighter with that first system, and then wet weather is expected consistently from Thursday through Saturday, before storm showers start to dwindle late Saturday and Sunday.

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That second system will bring a potential for several inches of rain across the coast and valleys and several feet of snow in the mountain regions, Schenk said.

“It is kind of early and we’re still trying to fine tune the details,” Schenk said. “There’s a potential for very heavy precipitation.”

With persistent rain and snow, there’s potential for hazards on the roadways, Schenk noted. “Travel is going to be impacted because of periods of precipitation. It’s going to be cold. It’s going to be very windy.

“We’re just really entering back into that stormy pattern we saw in January,” she said. “After this system, we could see another system. There’s going to be a potential system next week.”

The rain isn’t expected to eradicate the region’s drought deficit, but “everything helps at this point,” she said.

For those looking to head to the mountains with the new shot of snow, check conditions and plan ahead.

Strong winds and heavy snowfall could impact operations, said Mountain High Chief Marketing Officer John McColly. By Thursday, the resort is expecting six inches and on Friday there could be up to 2 feet of new snow fall.

Eliana Munoz, 5, plays in the snow at Mountain High Resorts in Wrightwood on Monday, Jan. 30, 2023. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

“We’re still in a winter weather pattern and will be for a couple weeks,” McColly said. “Winter is still here, we still have plenty of season to go.”

Weather typically warms up in March and April, but if the cold winter systems continue, McColly said there’s potential for a longer-than-normal season at local resorts, which typically close their slopes mid-April.

“We would always stay open longer,” he said,  “if conditions permit.”

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