Weather News

What to expect as heavy rain returns to Sacramento Valley, prompting flood watch

A storm system passing through Northern California beginning Tuesday evening won’t be as heavy as the one that dumped record rainfall in Sacramento and flooded an entire Sonoma County town last week, but it’s expected to make Sierra Nevada travel once again treacherous.

National Weather Service has issued a flood watch for the Sacramento Valley as the storm will drench some areas that saw significant flooding a week earlier.

NWS has also issued a winter storm warning from Tuesday after through Thursday morning, highly discouraging Sierra travel.

Here’s what to watch out for:

Localized flooding

The flood watch is in place 4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, with this week’s storm system expected to bring the heaviest rains Tuesday night through Wednesday.

NWS advises that streams and creeks will rise, and that localized flooding on roadway lanes is possible, especially in the foothills.

The valley is expected to get between 1 to 3 inches, with 2 to 5 inches predicted for the foothills.

Those rain totals would not normally pose a threat of flooding, but water could be slow to drain because the ground is still saturated with water from last week’s storm, NWS forecaster Cory Mueller said.

The flood watch also mentions a possibility of mudslides near Mendocino Complex burn scares in Lake, Glenn and Colusa counties.

Heavier rain will start falling in Sacramento a bit after 10 a.m. Tuesday, and the area could see wind gusts of up to about 25 mph Tuesday and Wednesday. Higher winds throughout the valley could topple trees and power lines, NWS warns.

Mountain travel is still a bad idea

Mountain snow will start Tuesday, with snow levels around 5,000 feet. The Sierra will see snow above 5,500 feet Wednesday, which will be the heaviest snow day, according to NWS forecasts. Snow will fall as low as 4,000 feet Thursday.

Forecasts say 1 to 4 feet of snow total will fall throughout most of the Sierra.

This will translate to yet another week of low visibility and likely chain controls on Highway 50, Interstate 80 and other highways, resulting in major travel delays. Last week’s storm shut down I-80 from Colfax to the Nevada state line for about two days.

Snow totals have shattered records at some Tahoe-area ski resorts, leading some of them last week to announce a one-week extension of their ski season.

Any end in sight?

The forecast for Sacramento says showers may continue into Friday. But as of Tuesday, forecasts show the rain should clear out by Friday night and make room for a sunny weekend.

Snow showers, however, are likely to continue near Tahoe through the weekend.

High temperatures in the mid to upper 50s are expected all this week in Sacramento.

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Michael McGough anchors The Sacramento Bee’s breaking news reporting team, covering public safety and other local stories. A Sacramento native and lifelong capital resident, he interned at The Bee while attending Sacramento State, where he earned a degree in journalism.