Winter storms could bring more widespread rain through Thursday

The first of two back-to-back storms dropped light steady rain on the Southland Wednesday, creating what National Weather Service forecasters described as hazardous driving condition and a minor threat of debris flows down slopes stripped of vegetation by wildfires.

At the same time, gusty southwest winds will sweep the region through this morning, with the winds forecast to subside early this afternoon. Winds of between 20 and 35 miles per hour gusting to 55 mph will buffet the San Gabriel Mountains and the Antelope Valley roughly through mid-day.

The strongest winds will occur near ridgetops in the San Gabriels and in the foothills in the Antelope Valley, forecasters said.

The winds could make driving challenging, particularly for high-profile vehicles, on Angeles Crest Highway, state Route 33, the Antelope Valley (14) Freeway, Pearblossom (SR 138) Highway and Interstate 5, forecasters said.

A wind advisory denoting an expectation of 35-mph winds will be in effect in the San Gabriels and Antelope Valley until noon.

Light snow accumulation is expected today above 7,000 feet.

The second expected weather system is forecast to move through Southern California tonight and Thursday, said the NWS. Its impacts are expected to be similar to today's storm, except for the fact that it will cause the snow level to drop much lower.

"Accumulating snows down to 4,000-foot elevations are possible, with mountain roadways such as the Tejon Pass and Highway 33 impacted," said an NWS statement.

According to an updated NWS forecast that differed from Tuesday's, between a half-inch and an inch of rain is forecast in coastal and valley areas today and between 1 and 2 inches in the mountains and foothills. The second
storm as of this morning is forecast to generally produce between an inch and 1.5 inches.

Today's storm out of the Pacific is something of a hybrid, incorporating a subtropical layer, while the next one will come down from the north and be colder, said NWS meteorologist Curt Kaplan.

Along the coast, a beach hazards statement, which is a notch less severe than a high surf advisory, will be in effect through Thursday morning.

Forecasters said minor tidal overflow could cause beach erosion and the pooling of sea water in beach and harbor areas at high tide. The highest tides -- near 7 feet, will occur between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. today and Thursday, according to the NWS.

"There is also an increased risk for ocean drowning," warned an NWS statement. "Rip currents can pull swimmers and surfers out to sea. Elevated breaking waves can cause injury, wash people off beaches or rocks and capsize small boats near shore."

The NWS urged swimmers to remain near lifeguard stations and, if caught in a rip current, to remain calm without fighting it and to swim parallel to the shoreline until able to break free.

"If unable to escape, face the shore and call or wave for help," the statement urged.

Also in force -- until 9 a.m. -- is a small craft advisory warning of hazardous conditions for small vessels.

The NWS forecast rain in L.A. County today and highs of 54 degrees Fahrenheit on Mount Wilson; 55 in Palmdale and Lancaster; 58 in Saugus; 61 in Pasadena and Burbank; 62 in San Gabriel; 63 in Avalon and Woodland Hills; 64 in Downtown L.A. and at LAX; and 65 in Long Beach.

Rain is also forecast in Orange County, along with highs of 61 in Laguna Beach; 62 in Newport Beach, Mission Viejo and San Clemente; 63 in Yorba Linda and Anaheim; and 64 in Irvine and Fullerton.

Amid more rain, temperatures will drop a few degrees Thursday -- up to 5 degrees in some L.A. County communities, remain roughly the same amid cloudy skies Friday, then shoot up 6 degrees Saturday amid sunny skies, which are forecast through at least Tuesday.

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