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Storms expected to batter California into new year

Will at least 10 days of active wet weather end California's historic drought? Probably not, but every bit helps.

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — With rain currently soaking much of Northern California, more atmospheric rivers are expected to spread across the state throughout the next week with a hope that much-needed snow will stick around. 

The National Weather Service Bay Area said hail and wind advisories across the San Francisco Bay Area would expire Tuesday morning. Winds with gusts of 45 mph buffeted mountain peaks and ridgetops, although some areas such as Mount Diablo, Lucas Valley and Mines Tower saw peak winds measured between 60 and 70 mph. Northern California could see isolated thunderstorms into Wednesday morning, with flood advisories expiring around 1 p.m. 

And it's only the beginning.

Bay Area meteorologist Daniel Swain said on Twitter that a “classic mid-latitude cyclone” is making its way toward the Pacific coast, and dragging a strong atmospheric river into Northern California. He said the Golden State can expect at least 10 days of active winter storms. 

For the Sacramento Valley area, a winter storm warning remains in effect until Wednesday. A series of storms will return Thursday and Friday, which scientists say is a good sign for the state’s new water year amid a fourth year of drought. The U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday showed California entering the holiday weekend with much of the Central Valley again in exceptional drought — the highest level — with other parts of the state in extreme drought. Most coastal areas are in severe drought. 

The National Weather Service's Sacramento meteorologist Idamis Del Valle-Shoemaker said that up to 1.5 inches of rain have come down in the valley, and between two to four inches in the mountains. The Sierra Nevada range along the I-80 have gotten the most precipitation. She said meteorologists expect the coming storms to bring up to four inches of rain to the Sacramento Valley and between four to eight inches in the mountains by Saturday.

Rain is also expected to soak Southern California during the latter part of the week, with Los Angeles expecting light to moderate rain Wednesday and Thursday. Regional temperatures will drop by at least 15 degrees during the same time frame after a weekend spent with highs in the low 70s. 

The Sierra Avalanche Center in Truckee has issued a Backcountry Avalanche Warning for the Central Sierra Nevada Mountains, including the greater Lake Tahoe area, through Wednesday morning. The Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center in Mammoth Lakes has also issued a Backcountry Avalanche Warning for the Eastern Sierra for the same time frame.

Reno meteorologist Heather Richards said South Lake Tahoe has received between 1.5 to 2.75 inches of rain, while 2.5 inches of snow has fallen in the Incline Valley area. Along the Plumas and El Dorado foothills, about 1.5 inches of rain has come down.

Richards said later in the week, another system could bring two to six inches of snow along the Sierra crest. But by Saturday night, forecasters expect more snow to fall across Northern California’s mountaintops — possibly eight to 10 inches at about 7,000 feet.

“It’s been a warmer storm,” Richards said in an interview Tuesday. “The snow fall is just starting to change over for Donner Summit. It is not a total snow event quite yet, but we do anticipate that to change here into the morning.”

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