California braces for large storm heading to state Saturday

Rain collects on a windshield as traffic zooms by on Golden Valley Road and Center Pointe Parkway. Katharine Lotze/Signal

Residents throughout the state are preparing for a weekend of storms and heavy rainfall created by a weather event called an “atmospheric river.”

The weather phenomenon consists of “a long and narrow flowing column of water vapor in the atmosphere” that transports most of the water outside of the tropics, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

Atmospheric rivers move with the weather and carry the amount of water roughly equivalent to the average water flow at the mouth of the Mississippi River.  They are responsible for 30 to 50 percent of the annual precipitation on the west coast.

This system is mainly heading toward central and northern California, according to meteorologists with the NWS.

“It shifted north from what we saw several days ago,” NWS Meteorologist Robbie Munroe said.

However, Santa Clarita is still expected to see rainfall throughout Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Munroe said the area will see some light and scattered rainfall as early as Saturday morning.  The storm will continue throughout Saturday and is expected to produce under a quarter-inch of rain.

“As we head into late Sunday and Monday morning, we expect more moderate to heavy rain over several hours with a cold front passage,” Munroe said.

NWS forecasts for Sunday include highs in the mid-60s and lows in the low-50s.  Monday forecasts include highs around 60 and lows in the upper-40s to mid-50s.

The greater Los Angeles area is expected to receive a half-inch to an inch or rainfall during the heavier portion of the storm Sunday and Monday, according to Munroe.

Some gusty southwest and west winds could impact the Antelope Valley and foothills Monday during the storm as well.

Commuters should plan ahead for increased traffic delays Monday morning due to slick roads and start of school for all five of the Santa Clarita Valley’s districts.

No snowfall is expected to impact the Grapevine this weekend, which was temporarily closed during two weekends in a row following prior weekend storms and wintry road conditions.

There is a possibility that the NWS will issue a flood watch to the Santa Clarita Valley burn areas if the rainfall reaches the thresholds for a watch or warning in the affected areas.

“That is something we’re mindful of,” Munroe said.

Current drought conditions throughout the state of California from the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Current drought conditions throughout the state of California from the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The consistent rainfall throughout December and early January has made an impact on the drought, which has plagued California for six years.

“If we continue to see rainfall down here that might help improve drought conditions,” Munroe said.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 18.07 percent of the state is in no drought and 67.61 percent of the state is in moderate drought conditions.

Only 18.31 percent of California, including the Santa Clarita Valley, is still in exceptional drought, the most severe drought category.

This is an improvement from one year ago, when 97.33 percent of the state was in a moderate drought and 44.84 percent of California was in an exceptional drought.

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