Heavy rain expected in Southern California on Sunday

January 29, 2016

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Big surf, rain and snow are heading toward California, including the first significant rains predicted for the southern half of the state since early this month, forecasters said Thursday.

Flash flood watches went into effect late Thursday for the state’s northwestern coast and interior, and on Friday in vast forest fire burn scars in the Sierra Nevada Gold Country.

The National Weather Service also issued winter storm warnings for the Southern Sierra from late Friday to Monday morning. Snow accumulations could range from 5 inches to 15 inches, and up to 20 inches above 7,000 feet. The snow level will drop to 4,000 feet or lower by early Sunday.

Continuing to build a significant Sierra snowpack is vital to California’s water supply after years of drought. Runoff from the vast mountain range fills major reservoirs as snow melts in the spring.

Recent storms fed by the El Nino warming phenomenon in the eastern Pacific have boosted the Sierra Nevada snowpack to 115 percent of normal — more than the drought-stricken state has seen in five years. State water mangers hope the snowpack to reach 150 percent of normal by April 1.

Southern California, meanwhile, has been missed by most storms this winter except for an El Nino-powered system that brought heavy rains during the first full week of January.

The next chance comes with a bluster low-pressure system expected to bring rain on Sunday. The National Weather Service indicated that the fast-moving storm may bring three to six hours of moderate to heavy rain on Sunday.