Winter will get a cold, wet start in Southern California as a series of storms brings days of rain this week.
The heaviest part of the rain likely will reach Ventura and Los Angeles counties on Thursday and Friday. Another storm is expected to pass through on Christmas. More rain may be on the way next week.
"We're in a very stormy pattern right now," said David Sweet, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Oxnard office. "We've got a very strong area of low pressure that's located off the Pacific Northwest coast."
The system is just sitting off Washington State, not budging, and sending a series of cold fronts down the coast, Sweet said.
"Because of the complexity of this pattern, timing each front coming through will be difficult," he said. "But it looks like the main periods of rain will be late Thursday into Friday morning and Saturday afternoon into Saturday night."
The storms could bring 1 to 3 inches along the coast and 2 to 5 inches in the mountains. Temperatures also will drop with highs expected in the low to mid-50s late Friday and through the weekend.
Sunday should be mostly dry before another weaker storm shows up late that night and into Monday.
“December is starting to look like a real winter,” said climatologist William Patzert, retired from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.
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Just a few weeks ago, Santa Ana winds pummeled Southern California. Utility companies shut down the electrical grid because of dangerous wildfire conditions, leaving tens of thousands without power on Thanksgiving.
The rain was a no show in November after a little wet weather in October.
Then, Mother Nature flipped the switch, Patzert said. The first significant storm since March drenched Southern California last week.
December storms pushed rainfall totals close to or even above normal and moved fire season into the rearview mirror at least for a while.
"As far as the drought is concerned, it is going to take more rain," Sweet said. "I think we still have quite a deficit to make up."
The long-term forecast calls for “yet another dryish” winter, Patzert said.
La Niña conditions last winter meant fewer storms overall. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has issued a La Niña advisory this year, too. The cooler waters at the equator typically mean drier-than-average winters for Southern California.
Last year, January through March – typically the region’s wettest months – had less than half of normal rainfall.
“In February, we got bageled,” Patzert said. “We never recovered after that.”
The 2020-21 water year ended Sept. 30 with all 10 of Ventura County's cities marking their lowest rainfall on record. Cities received just 2 to 5 inches of rain.
The U.S. Drought Monitor shows more than 90% of California in severe drought. Maps released last week show most of Ventura County as “exceptional,” the most severe drought designation and the one region has held since late July.
California may get a cold, snowy Christmas, but there’s no guarantee the trend will continue, Patzert said.
“Enjoy the rain and the snow this coming weekend,” he said. “And, turn off your sprinklers, because we definitely are still in a conservation mode.”
Cheri Carlson covers the environment for the Ventura County Star. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 805-437-0260.
This article originally appeared on Ventura County Star: Ventura County weather: Winter off to a cold, wet start in California