The next week is expected to feature a mix of wild weather in Southern California.
First, whipping winds will stoke concerns over wildfires. A strong swell is brewing and could bring waves up to 10 feet at some beaches by early next week. And there could be some rain and snowfall by the end of the weekend, good news for helping quench a thirsty region, but bad news for fire-stricken areas that could see mudslides.
The National Weather Service on Wednesday, Dec. 23, put out a red-flag warning as moderately strong Santa Ana winds strengthened through the day, expected to last until about noon Thursday.
In the Los Angeles and Ventura area, winds were expected to whip in the 40-to-60-mph range in foothills and mountains. San Bernardino County and Riverside County valleys, as well as Inland Orange County, were also under a red-flag warning, with strong, gusty winds expected.
That could spell trouble for dry areas, with Southern California getting little rain so far this season. A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity and warm temperatures can contribute to “extreme fire behavior.”
“Any fires that develop will likely spread rapidly,” the Weather Service warning said.
Fires have ravaged the region in recent years, and those areas will be especially vulnerable with about half an inch of rain fall expected from a storm system that could show up late Sunday and into Monday, said Brandt Maxwell, meteorologist for the National Weather Service.
“The hillsides that have dry vegetation, they are vulnerable to fires,” he said. “Most of Southern California is pretty close to an area that has had a fire … there’s a risk of debris flow. Everything on the hill can slide. Whenever there’s heavy rain, you can get mud flows and debris flows.”
Many burn areas haven’t had time to regrow the vegetation that can minimize the risk.
“If you look at the hills, they are quite brown,” Maxwell said.
But the rain is also good news because “we’re way behind” on rainfall for this time of year, he said.
For example, since the start of the wet season on Oct. 1, there’s only been about three-eighths of an inch of rain measured at John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, he said.
The norm for this time of year? Three inches.
If the forecasted storm shows up, it could bring about half an inch of rain through Monday.
“That still won’t make up for the difference,” Maxwell said. “But at least we’re headed in the right direction.”
Rainy weather by the end of the weekend could mess up ocean conditions, a bummer for surfers who like to tackle big waves. Boaters should also use caution with big swells, rain and wind that could be dangerous.
The same storm system bringing the wet weather by late Sunday and into Monday will bring waves in the 8- to 10-foot range at west-facing beaches across Southern California.
Surf conditions look cleaner, though smaller, for Friday and through Saturday, with waves up to 4 feet to 6 feet.
People not familiar with the ocean should use extra caution, with strong rip currents posing a hazard. When the swell gets bigger toward the end of the weekend, be careful of waves that can knock beachgoers off jetties or tide pools.
Most people, however, will have no interest in getting in the ocean with water temps lingering in the upper 50s.
“I think only the hardiest of souls will go into the water,” Maxwell said. “If they are from somewhere else and don’t have experience, they should probably stay out of the water.”
The combination of big surf and rain could add a flooding risk, though the tides aren’t going to be extreme so that should help low-lying areas.
“There’s slight risk of coastal flooding, but probably not high,” Maxwell said.
Local mountain areas may be getting a shot of snow, the first storm that would bring relief to resort towns starved for the white stuff since early November.
Folks at Big Bear Mountain Resort are hoping for a few storm showers on Christmas Eve and the bigger storm late Sunday and into Monday, which could deliver a “good round of wintry weather across the area,” its website said.
A couple of inches of snow is possible, the resort’s early projections said. “Snow showers will taper off Tuesday with cool and breezy weather continuing throughout much of next week,” the resort said. “If planning to travel into the mountains over the holidays, be prepared for winter weather driving conditions, and always carry chains.”
Source: Orange County Register