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NorCal storm delayed, but still on target

In the calm before the storm predicted to hit Northern California starting Friday, the peak of Mount Shasta still has some snow, as seen from Alturas in late January. Forecasters say the main blast from a large storm descending on California now appears likely to strike during Friday’s  evening commute hours.
In the calm before the storm predicted to hit Northern California starting Friday, the peak of Mount Shasta still has some snow, as seen from Alturas in late January. Forecasters say the main blast from a large storm descending on California now appears likely to strike during Friday’s evening commute hours. bnguyen@sacbee.com

The main blast from a large storm descending on California now appears likely to strike during Friday’s evening commute hours.

The storm slowed down somewhat Thursday, said Tom Dang, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Sacramento. But it has not diminished in strength.

“Often times, Friday afternoons are kinda hectic on their own,” Dang said. “It could be a little bit messier this time around.”

Through Saturday, the capital region can expect as much as 2 inches of rain. A second wave of rainfall is forecast to arrive late Sunday through Monday, delivering another inch or more. And there may not be a significant break between the two waves; rainfall may be continuous through the weekend.

Rainfall amounts will be much higher in portions of the Sierra Nevada and coastal mountains, potentially exceeding 10 inches in places through the weekend.

The strongest winds are expected Friday, gusting to 45 mph in the Sacramento Valley and stronger in the foothills and mountains. Thunderstorms are also possible through the weekend.

Snow levels will be at higher elevations in the Sierra Nevada, meaning little impact to highway passes. For example, rain – not snow – is expected throughout the weekend in Tahoe City, elevation 6,250 feet. That may change Monday, when the snow is expected to drop to lower elevations.

“By Monday, it should come down to, like, the ski resort levels,” said Alan Haynes, service coordination hydrologist at the California-Nevada River Forecast Center. “But it’s going to be liquid for a lot of the heavier part of the event.”

Flooding is possible on portions of the upper Sacramento River, south of Red Bluff, as well as in urban areas and rural creeks, Haynes said. Predicting that is difficult, however, because soils are so dry. California just concluded the driest January in recorded history, without a significant storm since just before Christmas.

Call The Bee’s Matt Weiser at (916) 321-1264. Follow him on Twitter @matt_weiser.

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