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Climate and Environment

Another 'Potentially High Impact' Cold Storm Is Expected To Hit Southern California This Week

A satellite view of the cloud systems near the U.S. West Coast on Monday.
The skies over California on Monday.
(Courtesy NOAA)
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We have now technically entered the spring season — yes, March 20 is the official start — but it's not going to feel like it this week. Southern Californians are bracing for yet another cold storm system, one the National Weather Service is describing as "potentially high impact."

What to expect this week

While forecasts now anticipate a break in the weather on Monday, heavy rains are expected to peak Tuesday and extend into Wednesday.

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"The big storm looks to be coming in on Tuesday. And, we do have a high wind watch in effect for all of L.A. County. So high gusts to 60 mph or more," said Joe Sirard, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

One area of concern will be the mountains, where another round of heavy snowfall is expected and forecasters are warning of "dangerous to impossible driving conditions."

"There's actually a moderate threat, up to 3 inches along the Grapevine, we could see like a little bit of accumulation Tuesday morning, but really all the snow is gonna fall about Tuesday night into Wednesday," said Kristen Lund with the National Weather Service's Oxnard office.

Up to 6 inches of snow is possible around the elevation of 4,000 feet, with as much as another 2 feet of snow possible at higher elevations. Mountain and desert gusts are expected to reach between 60-70 mph.

Coastal winds will also be intense, reaching speeds of 50-60 mph and that means high surf and hazardous seas are also expected Tuesday to Wednesday. Breaking waves may even impact some harbor entrances.

There's a 20% chance of thunderstorms over on the mountains and coastal areas Tuesday evening. The National Weather Service reminds residents to seek shelter indoors if you hear thunder.

With the rain peaking on Tuesday, drivers should be careful during the morning commute on Wednesday and watch out for flooded roadways. (Keep reading for some driving tips.)

Over in Ventura, the weather service is monitoring the Ventura River around Foster Park for a 10% chance of reaching its flood stage. The major concern is increasing river flow for Tuesday.

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Come Thursday, the storm is expected to clear out.

Driving in the rain

  • Roadway safety experts advised motorists to:

    • Check weather and road conditions all along your planned route
    • Slow down
    • Keep a wider-than-usual distance between your vehicle and the one in front
    • Don't drive through standing water — as little as 12 inches of rushing water can carry away most cars, and two feet can carry away SUVs and trucks.
    • Make sure tires are fully inflated
    • Check windshield wiper blades and replace if necessary

How to stay safe in high winds

Safety tips from Southern California Edison
    • Watch for traffic signals that may be out. Approach those intersections as four-way stops.
    • Make sure you have a battery-operated radio and flashlights. Check the batteries to make sure they are fresh. Use flashlights for lighting during a power outage; do not use candles because they may pose a significant fire hazard.
    • If you’re in a vehicle with a fallen power line on it, stay in the vehicle and remain calm until help arrives. It is OK to use your cellphone to call 911. If you must leave the vehicle, remember to exit away from downed power lines and exit by jumping from the vehicle and landing with both feet together. You must not touch the vehicle and the ground at the same time. Then proceed away from the vehicle by shuffling and not picking up your feet until you are several yards away. 
    • Water and electricity don’t mix. Water is an excellent conductor of electricity. Do not step in or enter any water that a downed power line may be touching.
    • Do not use any equipment inside that is designed for outdoor heating or cooking. Such equipment can emit carbon monoxide and other toxic gases.
    • If you use a generator, place it outdoors and plug individual appliances directly into it, using a heavy-duty extension cord. Connecting generators directly to household circuits creates “backfeed,” which is dangerous to repair crews.
    • Leave the doors of your refrigerator and freezer closed to keep food as fresh as possible. Place blocks of ice inside to help keep food cold. Check food carefully for signs of spoilage. 
    • Check on your neighbors to make sure everyone is safe.

Tips to keep your heating bills down

  • State law requires residential units to have heating systems that can keep indoor temperatures at a minimum of 70 degrees. That means every dwelling unit and guest room offered for rent or lease should offer heating equipment, usually central air conditioning (A/C) or a wall heater. — Caitlin Hernández

  • Use heat smartly to save money: Cranking things like the A/C and wall heaters can be expensive. If money is tight, be judicious about how and when you use your utilities. For example, only use heaters at night or only set the thermostat to around 70 degrees.

  • Open and close those vents: If you have central A/C, look at where the vents are around your home. Are any open in places where you don’t stay long? Practice opening and closing those so warm air only goes where you need it (most vents should have a small toggle lever). Humidifiers can also help you warm things up — and it’s useful to add moisture into our dry air.

  • Adjust your wall heaters: If you have a wall heater, you can change the output by adjusting the knob (usually at the bottom). Since wall heaters can only warm the areas where they’re placed, it’s essential to close doors to rooms you won’t be in so hot air doesn’t get wasted.

  • Turn on your ceiling fan (really): If you have a ceiling fan, try turning it on. This sounds counterintuitive, but there’s science behind it. The direction a fan turns can push air in different directions, and since hot air floats up, you’ll want to move that around. Your fan should spin clockwise to create an updraft to circulate. Not all fans will have this option, though.

Additional storm resources

What questions do you have about the weather we're experiencing?
A massive winter storm is hitting Southern California. We're here to answer your questions.

Updated March 20, 2023 at 7:47 AM PDT
This story was updated with the latest information on the storm.
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