A series of Pacific storms is expected to arrive in Northern California on Wednesday, promising high winds and heavy rain and prompting a flood watch across the Sacramento Valley.
The National Weather Service's flood watch, issued Monday, extends across the Valley, north of Redding and Shasta and south of San Jose. Basically, it alerts people to the potential for flooding based on forecasts.
And the forecasts are impressive:
Three inches or so of rain are expected south of Interstate 80 in the Sacramento Valley on Wednesday through Sunday night. North of the freeway, the forecast is for about 4 inches through the end of the week, the NWS reported.
The heaviest rain, up to 12 inches, is expected along the upper reaches of the Sierra Nevada. At mountain elevations, sustained winds up to 45 mph are expected with gusts to 60 mph. And snow, where it falls, will be above the 6,500-foot elevation.
Valley winds will be sustained at 25 mph to 35 mph, with gusts to 45, said NWS meteorologist Stefanie Henry in Sacramento.
Among the heaviest-hit areas will be the drainage systems associated with the Feather River and Mount Shasta areas. And the NWS notes that flooding is expected on smaller tributary creeks and streams in the area.
One of the big Sacramento-area worries, of course, is the effect such heavy rainfall will have on urban areas where leaves can block street drains.
"Our big concerns are the leaves in the street," said Roger Ince, Office of Emergency Services coordinator for Sacramento County. "Our trees still have a lot of leaves on them. We may see some tree branches or trees coming down."
Ince urged area residents to "get a plan, make sure things are cleaned up in the yard."
"Everybody is used to the rain," he said. "Just be ready. The system will come in waves. We'll see periods of heavy rain."
The county, he said, is moving emergency backup generators to strategic locations, "making sure that the storm drain pumps have a backup."
Want to prepare?
Check out the website, www.sacramentoready.org
Even so, emergency preparedness officials and some agencies that oversee flood control are taking word of the storm series in stride.
"This would be the (season's) first significant, really wet storm over Northern California," said Jeanine Jones, interstate resources manager for the state Department of Water Resources. But, she said, there is room in reservoirs for additional water.
"It would certainly replenish soil moisture," Jones said. And uncontrolled North Coast rivers such as the Eel and Smith could rise rapidly because they aren't controlled by dams. Still, the storm "is a normal heavy winter storm, and we're pretty early in the start of the season," she said.
Robert Hartman, hydrologist for the NWS California-Nevada River Forecast Center, said hydrological forecasts are updated at least twice a day and are available on the center's website, www.cnrfc.noaa.gov
On Monday, the vast majority of rivers were within normal ranges.
But he said there's a good chance this week that water will flow into the Sutter Bypass, which typically becomes a relief valve to avoid urbanized flooding.
At the California Highway Patrol, Officer Michael Bradley agrees that a plan can help.
Check road conditions before taking a trip. Better yet, add the state Department of Transportation's highway information line, (800) 427-7623, to your cellphone.
Travel with an emergency kit, including a blanket, flares and jumper cables.
Check the lights on your car, the air in your tires and your windshield wipers, he said. And use common sense on the slippery roadways.
"Leave earlier for work," Bradley said, "and drive slow."