Strongest storm in 6 years to bring heavy rain, mountain snow

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SAN DIEGO - A series of Pacific storms will bring heavy rain, mountain snow and gusty wind to San Diego County starting later this week and extending through early next week.

The first storm is expected to hit late Wednesday night, and gusty winds, rain and a slight chance of thunderstorms are expected. Predicted rainfall amounts range from less than two-tenths of an inch in the deserts to one- to two-thirds of an inch of rain west of the mountains to three-quarters of an inch to 1.5 inches in the mountains, according to the National Weather Service.

Snow levels will fall to between 5,000 and 5,500 feet Thursday and 4 to 8 inches could accumulate.

A somewhat stronger storm system is expected to hit San Diego County Friday and will drop 2 to 3 inches of rain and a foot of snow or more in the mountains, 1.25 to 1.5 inches of rain west of the mountains and a quarter to half an inch of rain in the deserts.

Forecasters said the rain would stick around through Saturday afternoon. A lull in the inclement weather was expected to last from late Saturday into Sunday morning, but the strongest storm in the series is expected to hit later Sunday.

Over a five-day period starting Thursday, the storms will drop "multiple rounds of heavy snowfall" in the mountains. From Thursday through Tuesday of next week, a total of 6 inches to a foot could fall over elevations between 4,000 to 5,000 feet, 1 to 3 feet could accumulate between 5,000 and 6,500 feet and 3 feet or more could blanket higher peaks, according to the National Weather Service. Hazardous travel conditions may be possible on portions of Interstate 8 and on county roads S-1, S-6 and S-7.

Preliminary data also indicated the storms would also deliver a total of 1 to 2 inches of rain to the deserts, 2 to 4 inches at the beaches, 3 to 5 inches in the valleys and 5 to 10 inches in the mountains with higher amounts possible in certain areas.

Forecasters warned that the heavy rain may cause flooding, especially after the first and second storms when the soil will likely not have the ability to soak up much more moisture. Most of the excess water will turn into runoff.

Several days of moderate to heavy rainfall will raise the risk of urban flooding, flash flood and debris flows.

Forecasters noted that the San Diego River "responds more quickly" to rain, and water may flow at times over some of the lower water crossings in Mission Valley. Flooding may also be possible along the San Luis Rey and Tijuana rivers.

The Santa Margarita River, which runs through Camp Pendleton, may also reach flood levels. Travel may be affected on Vandegrift Boulevard and Stuart Mesa Road and closures could be possible, according to the weather service.

Flooding may also be possible from Bonsall to Pauma Valley, which could also result in road closures, forecasters said.

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