A powerful storm bearing down on California will likely deliver near hurricane-force winds, heavy rainfall, and up to 10 feet of snow in the Sierra Nevada. The storm will begin wreaking havoc in Northern California late Friday afternoon and reach the southern part of the state late in the night, according to forecasters.
This is likely the strongest storm of the winter so far for California, CBS News contributing meteorologist Jeff Berardelli reports. It is being fueled by a very strong Pacific Jet Stream and unusually warm ocean waters partly associated with an El Nino-like pattern.
The system will look like a textbook storm by Friday night, with a hurricane-like eye forming, Berardelli reports. It is expected to last through Saturday night.
The National Weather Service warned that Sunday and Monday will be hazardous travel days as well for the region. Snow levels will drop on Monday and are expected to stay around 1,000-2,000 feet on Tuesday. Up to five feet of accumulation is expected at the higher elevations and a dusting at 2,500 feet.
Winter storm warnings will be in effect up and down the Sierra Nevada along with a flash flood watch in the foothills above the San Joaquin Valley, according to The Associated Press.
Berardelli reports that rainfall rates will be up to 1 inch per hour for coastal areas from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Rain that heavy is capable of causing rapid flash floods and mudslides.
Winds will gust to near-hurricane force on the hills along the coast. The ski resorts in the Sierra Nevada Mountains could get 3-6 feet of snow this weekend and early next week – and some areas could even get up to 10 feet.
Meanwhile, authorities have issued flash flood watches for the wildfire burn areas of Southern California. Santa Barbara County officials said they would issue an evacuation order for three fire-scarred areas unless the storm doesn't materialize as expected.
Powerful rains drenched Southern California as the first of three storms arrived in the region Thursday. CBS Los Angeles reported heavy rain and thunderstorms started early in Santa Barbara County, and moved south into Ventura and Los Angeles counties during the morning.
The city of Malibu shut down Zuma Beach due to lightning strikes. Beachgoers at all Los Angeles County beaches were told to seek shelter in the event of lightning, and Santa Monica city officials urged people to evacuate all ocean and beach/sand areas.
The National Weather Service said two cold weather systems will follow on Sunday and Monday, bringing additional widespread showers and snow.